JJ Felise would love nothing more than to be the name on every Newcastle fan’s lips tomorrow night.
Felise will make his debut for the Knights in the NRL against his old club Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium.
But as for remembering his name long-term? He says he’s happy for you to forget it.
Why? Because he has every intention of ditching it.
The former Wests Tigers prop, who took a leap of faith and linked with the Knights mid-season without any guarantees in a bid to revive his NRL career, is planning to change his name in the off-season.
Instead of JJ Felise, the 22-year-old has revealed he will become JJ Collins, after his mother Suinu’u’s maiden name.
JJ takes up the story.
“I was named after my father [Jacob Junior] but unfortunately, I didn’t know my Dad very well. I was raised by my mother. My father was in and out but in saying that, I really didn’t pay attention too much because my Mum did such a good job bringing up me, my older brother Joshua and younger sister Joyce.
“I haven’t had any contact with him and I’ve always thought it best if I just move on with my life.
“Mum worked really hard – she has done a whole lot for the three of us in terms of schooling and raising us properly. I can’t thank her enough because she put us first. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
It’s for that reason he will be dropping his surname.
“I want to take Mum’s name so I’m looking at becoming JJ Collins in the off-season. Hopefully I can get it done before the pre-season starts again so I can finalise it.
“Joshua has already done it so I want to honour Mum in the same way and Joyce is looking at doing it too.
“I’m also looking to get married soon to my high school sweetheart [fiance Aleshia Potaka] so I don’t want to be Felise when that happens.”
- READ MORE: Newcastle Knights
Born in Logan, Felise played his junior footy at Logan Brothers before going to school at Keebra Park State High, the same school that produced Benji Marshall, Ben Te’o and Greg Eastwood.
He was spotted by then Tigers recruitment boss Warren McDonald at a recruitment camp and was put on scholarship.
“The Tigers paid for my schooling pretty much from Year 8 to Year 12,” he said. “I was very fortunate and I’m very appreciative and respectful of what they have done for me.
“And once I moved to Sydney and signed an Under 20’s contract, they were really good in terms of looking after me and keeping on top of my welfare.”
Felise played 13 NRL games for the Tigers under former coach Jason Taylor after debuting in 2016 but the top grade games dried up this season with coach Ivan Cleary bringing in Ben Matulino and Russell Packer.
“I got along well with JT [Taylor]. I’m not saying I didn’t get along with Ivan but I felt like JT had me in his plans but I wasn’t really in Ivan’s,” Felise said.
“I could see if I was going to get another crack in the NRL, that I’d probably have to look elsewhere.”
When the Knights inquired before June 30 but offered nothing beyond the end of the season, Felise backed himself and jumped at the opportunity.
“I just thought it was a chance to come up here and hopefully get a run and prove myself and push for a contract,” he said.
“I’m loving Newcastle and feel very honoured and privileged to be getting a run against my old club. Hopefully, I can re-pay Browny with a good performance and we get a win.”