Parramatta Eels star Isaiah Papali'i has opened up on his relationship with New Zealand netball international Elle Temu ahead of Sunday night's grand final.
Temu choked back tears while singing the New Zealand national anthem last week after winning her maiden cap for the Kiwis against Jamaica.
She has been in a relationship with Eels back-rower Papali'i for six years, but his move from the Warriors to Parramatta has resulted in a tricky situation for their love life.
'WHAT A JOKE': Panthers fans fume over James Tedesco news
'NOT GOOD ENOUGH': Ben Hunt drops bombshell at Dally M awards
Border restrictions enforced by Covid-19 mean the pair have spent very little time together over the last two-and-a-half years, with the 22-year-old Temu pursuing her own career with the Northern Stars in the ANZ Premiership in New Zealand.
But with the border with New Zealand softening over the last six months, Papali'i and Temu have been able to see each other more regularly - and she has even developed into a good luck omen for the Eels.
"I've been able to get to three games this year and they've won every time I've been to see him play," Temu told AAP.
"He put an Instagram post up last week and said I was his lucky charm."
Temu comes from a rugby league background, with grandfather Stan Martin coaching the Cook Islands and Kiwi Ferns and is now a prominent player agent.
Her father Jason Temu played for Newcastle, the Warriors and in the UK Super League.
"I'm not really critical or giving him feedback," she said.
"But I know when he's tired because I can see it in his body language."
Over the last few months, Temu has been in attendance for Parramatta wins over the Wests Tigers, Brisbane and last week's preliminary-final victory over North Queensland.
"I'm definitely getting her to the game," Papali'i told AAP about Temu attending Sunday night's grand final against the Panthers.
"She's got her own commitments, she's juggling that and then thinking 'how can I get to the game?'
"We've won every time she's been here, so fingers crossed she can hang around."
Isaiah Papali'i and Emma Temu barely get to see each other
Papali'i and Temu started dating at school in Auckland six years ago, but their sporting commitments have meant they are barely in the same place at the same time.
When Temu finally got a move from Wellington to the Northern Stars in Auckland, Papali'i was locked down in Australia with his old club the Warriors at the start of the pandemic.
His subsequent move to Parramatta last season only exacerbated that.
"I only saw her once last year (because of Covid-19)," Papali'i said.
"I can feel the difference away from the field now and can look forward to things a bit more knowing we won't get stopped by Covid-19."
Regardless of whether Papali'i honours next year's contract with the Wests Tigers, Temu is likely to remain in New Zealand in a bid to become a regular international.
"There have been a lot of hard conversations over the phone," she said.
"I think it just shows that we really love each other to pursue our own stuff, but now we are both where we want to be - it makes it all worth it.
"When we are 50 or 60 and hopefully with a couple of kids, we're going to be grateful we did that."
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.