Playing Rugby League was the first thing I ever wanted to do since I was a little kid.
My earliest memory of Rugby League was when my old man was the reserve’s coach at the Canberra Raiders. I remember going to trainings with him and kicking footy’s over the goal posts.
I remember spending time at my junior club which was the West Centenary Panthers, where there were plenty of memories with my best mates playing touch footy. We played it before, during and after training. I remember our parents would beg us to leave but all we wanted to do was throw a footy around.
Going through primary school, high school, up to semi professional and professional football, there’s never been a day where I haven't wanted to become a footy player, I've always wanted to do it for a living.
It’s hard to explain why you want to do it, because telling someone that you want to run into people is pretty silly. There's more to it though. It tests your character, helps you build life long relationships with people and teaches you a lot of life lessons, which is why I love playing it and why it's my passion.
After spending some time with the Brisbane Broncos, I was extremely excited to sign with a club like the Rabbitohs. I got the call that I’d be recruited to play NRL and I was over the moon because it's what I’ve wanted to do since I can remember.
To make my debut at a club like that would’ve been great. However, I missed the most of last year and this year as well with injuries. But I now know that I can be at that level and it makes me hungry to get back there.
I have had a pretty unlucky run at it.
I missed the 2016 preseason with the Broncos when I had ulcerative colitis. I had to sit out, wasn’t allowed to lift a weight or run. I was alright once the season began, but I was still on cortisone steroids and some other pretty heavy medication.
When I signed up with with South Sydney, I was just really sick again. The meds weren’t doing it for me. This was all happening while I was trying to play a bit of reserve grade to get myself in the NRL team.
The coach was basically telling me that if i'd played one good game here or there, I'd get a game in the NRL. I was pushing my body to the limits, but it couldn’t keep up with what I wanted it to do.
I probably wouldn’t have even lasted two sets in the NRL with the way I was feeling. I was stubborn with how I thought I could push through it. I didn’t realise it was as bad as it was. I was playing front row and I was only 90kg.
They gave me the rest of the year off, so I trained my arse off in the offseason and preseason, was absolutely flying and then I broke my ankle, tore my ligaments and broke my fibula. It was frustrating because I felt ready, I’d done all the preparation, yet I had hit another speed bump. Despite the huge efforts from the clubs medical team and myself we couldn’t get it right again for the 2017 season and that was it for me.
The experience taught me a lot about myself. I learnt gratitude through changing my perspective on things. Sure, I was sick and it sucked going through it all, but there were people in the same hospitals as me who were a lot worse off. Even in our sport there are great examples to use for inspiration. Guys like Jordan Kahu and Connor Tracey who have had three back to back ACL injuries and Jharal Yow Yeh who had to retire off an injury a lot worse to his ankle. It taught me to be grateful for what I have.
I’m part of the Wakka Wakka and Wulli Wulli tribes in Cherbourg, Queensland. My mum’s indigenous, but she was adopted into a Caucasian family. We didn’t really know our indigenous family growing up and I didn’t even know my tribe. I lived next to Inala, a place where heaps of indigenous people were, but I was pretty much brought up in a middle class Anglo Saxon Australian society. I honestly didn’t know anything more than the bloke next to me, so I had to look and search for it.
I went to a great high school and it was there where I learnt how to paint art, traditional dance and speak a little bit of the language. When I was at the Broncos I used to volunteer at high schools to teach what I had learnt from my culture. I then went on to be the Indigenous liaison officer at St Thomas More College to teach Aboriginal culture.
One day, I was at a student’s funeral who I worked with, when someone came and tapped me on the shoulder. He said, “I know who you are” and I said, “how are you going, who are you?”, to which he then said, “I’m your uncle.”
He then retraced my lineage which led me to meet all my cousins who gave me the story of my Indigenous heritage. Now, I’ve learnt how to play the Didgeridoo and I’m trying to gather as much information as I can get about my indigenous heritage so when I have kids I can pass it on.
RACISM, SPORT AND SOCIETY
I haven’t experienced any racism from playing Rugby League, that’s most likely because we’ve got a massive indigenous following and playing group in the NRL.
I think racism is more of a societal issue. Our game does a great job with awareness for Indigenous issues but I think there’s always more we can do. The biggest thing for me is fighting to keep the Indigenous All Stars Game around. We need the NRL to commit to finding a spot for it in the Rugby League calendar because it is so powerful for our communities to be able to see our people in a positive light like that.
It’s bloody huge, it’s a massive goal of mine to put on the jersey. It’s up there with Origin and Representing your country. It’s honestly immeasurable.
I got to play before the first one in the curtain raiser at Skilled Park in 2010 and I remember seeing those guys wear that jersey and it meant a lot to them. It means a lot because during All Stars week the players go out to communities, give back and celebrate what it is to be an Indigenous Australian, it's massive. I've been to a couple of Indigenous player camps and the pride you feel is amazing. I'd love to be able to throw on an All Star jersey one day.
MY PASSION OUTSIDE OF FOOTBALL
Dancing is kind of like football, I couldn’t imagine myself without it. I think because I’m so enveloped in Rugby League and the lifestyle, I’m full on with my prep and I’m always thinking of how to get better with my game. Dancing allows me to compartmentalise, take my footy head off, become a different person and get away from the game.
I went to high school at St Peter Claver College in Ipswich and we were big in four things: Netball, Futsal, Rugby League and Dance. When I was 14, my best mate started doing it and he said, “mate you’ve gotta come to dance mate and look at all the hot chicks.” So I went “yep, sign me up for that!” I always had the rhythm and I took to it straight away. If I wasn't out on the field playing footy at lunch you could bet I was in the dance room practicing.
When I started I went through the whole krumping stage which was big, and we even had dance battles during lunch times and it was like something out of Step Up or Stomp the Yard. I got to captain the dance team where we won competitions and helped to inspire younger groups of guys at our to school to take up dance.
When I was sick, I used dance as a crutch to lean on because it allowed me to express creativity in a time where my head wasn’t in the best space. It allowed me to express emotions when I wasn't feeling my best.
Now that I’m back home in Brisbane, I am committing more time to dance by posting videos and getting back into the studio. I’m hoping to take a dance group under my wing from my old school and see what we can achieve.
WHERE I WANT TO BE
In a year’s time, I want to be signed up with an NRL club.
I want to have a great year in the Q Cup and my ankle is near 100 percent and feeling good again, no more sickness so I'm feeling good.
I'm looking to work on my personal development and strive to be the best version of myself I can be.
It’s a year where looking back, I will have known I had to take one step back for two steps forward, satisfied with my effort to continue to chase my dream.
Rugby League Player. Sydney/Brisbane. @wamuranberries