Lalakai Foketi (FOR-ketty), according to his Waratah coach Darren Coleman, “is an ultimate all-rounder, he can ball play, he can carry and he’s really strong defensively and he’s now at a point where he's one of the most dangerous strike centres in the league.” Nonetheless, Foketi “had to bounce around the world” before his dedication and focus returned him to Australia and eventually into Wallaby Gold.
Born in New Zealand, Foketi’s family moved to Australia where he played his first rugby, at halfback, for the Manly Roos U13s. Foketi began his secondary schooling at Balgowlah Boys’ High School before he won a scholarship to The Kings School. He played two years in the 1st XV (2011-12) and from there earned selection for Australian Schools (2012) and Australian U20s (2014).
2014 also saw Foketi make his Super Rugby debut, for the Rebels against New South Wales, and play for Greater Sydney Rams in the NRC. He then upped and left Australia when he signed with Bayonne in France for the 2014/15 season and later moved back to New Zealand where he played three years in the Mitre 10 Cup for Bay of Plenty. Foketi reflected upon his globetrotting once he returned to Australia in 2018 and suited up for the Waratahs: ““Going to Melbourne when I was 18, I didn’t know what to do - it was my first time living out of home and I was like a little kid in a candy store, being in a Super Rugby team that early. I took it for granted a little bit, so to come back and to go do the hard years, play club rugby in New Zealand, play Mitre 10 it just made me appreciate it a whole lot more.”
Foketi plied his trade in Super Rugby for four seasons before his “devasting” midfield partnership with Izaia Perese in 2021 that put his name firmly in the frame for higher honours and he was duly rewarded with a first Test cap, against Wales in Cardiff. In 2022, Wallaby coach Dave Rennie couldn’t have been more effusive in the praise of his inside centre: “His quality distribution and footwork are a genuine point of difference but it’s his diligence to develop all parts of his game that has impressed us." Later in the year, Foketi stamped his name in the memory of all 80,698 spectators at the Stade de France when he finished an outrageous 95-metre counterattack to score one of the tries of the year. Nick Heath’s brilliant commentary encapsulated the moment: “It’s a sensational try, finished by Foketi and carved in the image of the French themselves.”
2012 Represented Australian Schools against Tongan Schools (W 70-13)
2014 Represented Australia U20s at the seventh IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand.
2021 Foketi won his first Test cap when he came off the bench in the 72nd minute to replace Hunter Paisami in the 28-29 loss to Wales at Principality Stadium.
2022 Samu Kerevi started each of the home Tests against England before Paisami and then Foketi filled the inside-centre role for the two away internationals against Argentina. Foketi then started both TRC matches against New Zealand. Unfortunately, a shin injury suffered only minutes after he scored the incredible 18th minute try against France, saw him miss the rest of the Spring Tour.