Something that I have placed significant importance on throughout my life is building resilience and a strong character when faced with adversity or misfortune. Learning from all of the experiences in my life has given me a really good perspective on what is important at the end of the day.
I grew up in Western Sydney and attended Granville South Creative and Performing Arts High School. In some respects, I felt like an outsider trying to fit in. I regrettably remember giving my teachers a hard time at school. Looking back, it is disappointing as that’s not how I was raised to behave, however, sometimes wanting to fit in with those around you can change your behaviour for the worse.
Taking Responsibility at School
Around the time I was having the most trouble at school, I was recommended by our community liaison officer, Moala Polota-Nau, to join the Rugby Youth Foundation program. I didn’t know too much about it, but I knew it would get me out of class, and that was enough to pique my interest.
The coaching part of the program became one of the most important experiences for me in school, and it taught me valuable leadership skills that I continue to use to this day.
I was responsible for coaching 11- and 12-year-old students who would challenge my patience and communication skills but would also give me their attention. My resilience grew stronger during those small moments and interactions with others.
I think the reason that I look back on the Rugby Youth Foundation with so much fondness was because of the facilitators’ belief in me to succeed and make the most of myself as a person. Joe and Moala keep checking in with me to this day.
World Cup Omission
Fast forward a few years, and my resilience was once again tested on the rugby field, only this time as a player. I missed out on selection for the Rugby Union World Cup in 2014. It was a really tough learning curve for me. So much hard work went into pushing for selection in the squad and when I received the call telling me that I just missed out it was like somebody had dropped a ton of bricks on me.
I didn’t quit though. Despite the rejection, my response was to work harder to make the next World Cup squad. It was the only way I knew how to respond. The desire to succeed by any means possible instigated a code-switch and my Rugby League career began. Initially I joined to increase my fitness levels for Rugby Union, but I ended up representing Australia at the very next Rugby League World Cup in 2017, just three years later.
More recently, the biggest test of character for me was away from the rugby field. I think the most difficult adversity anybody can face is when your parents get sick. My father fell ill and needed round the clock care from my siblings and me. I was allocated a day to look after him, at a time when I was in the World Cup training camp. This meant I was juggling my work-life, caring for my dad and constantly flying interstate to take tests and participate in training sessions and media events.
When he passed away, I found it difficult to be motivated. I saw rugby as something that kept me away from him in those final months. But I’d always recall our conversations before his passing, when we spoke about playing hard and making the World Cup squad. It’s funny how rugby was the thing that I’d blame, but also become the motivation that I needed: a promise I made to him I was going to make the World Cup squad.
It’s good that I can reflect on my experiences and try to understand when and why I became the person I am today. Resilience is so important when chasing your dreams. There will always be some bumps along the way, but it’s important to realise that how you react and learn from these failures will shape who you are, for better or for worse.