2017 has been a whirlwind year for me as an individual.
If you had of told me this time last year I would play 19 NRL games and finish as the club’s leading try scorer I would probably say you are kidding yourself. It’s been a very honourable season for myself.
I think getting an opportunity early gave me a chance to get close with the boys and I guess to learn the way of first grade. Also how to consistently be at the top of your game and stay there. To be playing first grade is something I’ll be forever grateful for and something I will hold really close to my heart.
For me, I wasn’t really expecting an opportunity so early in the year. I was sitting there watching the boys play the Roosters on the Thursday night, it hurt seeing the boys go down but there was a moment where I thought, ‘I might get an opportunity here’.
Kerrod Holland went down first - I didn’t think too much of it – and then I saw Will Hopoate go down. It wasn't until one of my close family friends called me on my drive home. He was a little excited, ‘You might get a crack next week, so keep an eye out,’. I was just about to get home when I got a call from our general manager Alan Thompson, ‘don’t hop on that plane tomorrow, just come to training on Sunday’. The NSW Cup side were to fly to New Zealand for the game.
It was hard to know if I was going to play though because I only got the phone call to come to training and it wasn't until the Tuesday teams got named. I just had to box in all my emotions. I couldn't get to excited as Des was still waiting on the results of Kerrod Holland. After finding out I made the team on the Tuesday afternoon I called mum straight away and she was emotional – which was beautiful to hear. She has been through a lot and to hear her get emotional for myself is something I will always hold close to my heart.
Things certainly became difficult at times during the year but I found it easy to stay positive. I was going to training every day and practicing with the likes of Aidan Tolman, Josh Jackson, Brett Morris, Josh Morris and Will Hopoate. James Graham always says it’s just a game, a made-up game with made up rules. One thing that is not made up is the mate-ship and that’s one thing I learnt this year. The friendships I have created is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As a young guy in the team I leant heavily on these guys for guidance and never did they not give me their time. These guys had been through all the ups and downs of the NRL, they'd seen it all before. I was always learning.
All the boys train hard but one person that caught my eye and was there for me from day one was Josh Reynolds. He always told me no matter what happens just train hard. He has a crazy story as well, after he finished his 20’s career he had ankle surgery. He'd broken his ankle and tore ligaments, had a reco on his ankle and had a couple of shoulder reco's too during his career. To see what he has achieved throughout his time on the footy field after all that really drives me. Even through all the high's and lows Josh has been there for me every step of the way on and off the field.
We are going to lose a lot. He isn’t just a good footy player, he is a good person. I can keep wrapping him for days but I’ll tell you something about him – he is very loyal. Josh loves the Bulldogs, we are going to miss him a lot but in saying that the Tigers are going to gain a lot. I wish him all the best and just want to thank him for helping me to become the person I am today.
As the year progressed I got really close with the Morris boys. Josh and Brett have had a massive impact on the player that I am. Being outside backs, playing in the centres and wings, they’ve been in a similar position to me. I’ll ask them some of the stupidest of questions when they're both exhausted and they will still give me their time. To get that type of respect means everything to me and something I will always cherish.
The World Cup
It was a very special moment for me pulling on the Fiji jersey for the first time. There wasn’t a lot of pressure on me but I put the pressure on myself to excel and to be where I am today. I remember when I got the phone call I was flying over to Samoa to possibly play; my mum was in a similar state to when I told her that I was playing first grade. I was a little emotional myself, because no one really sees that coming, getting the call up to play for your country. Especially when you haven’t even played first grade yet. It’s something I’ll always look back on and thank my family and thank God for blessing me with that opportunity.
The senior boys in the Fiji team really take control. Mick is an awesome coach and that’s all he has to worry about because come time for training the boys are switched on and willing to learn. We all respect each other and have that gratitude for representing our country. We love what we do and love each other’s company. The national team is like my third family away from my family and the Bulldogs.
This opportunity at the World Cup is super important for not just me but for the country. It’s something I put on my list of things to do and I’m hoping to tick that off. They come around every four years, back in 2013 playing SG Ball, it wouldn't have even crossed my mind that I'd be playing in the World Cup. I've now put my best foot forward but it doesn’t mean I’m there yet.
To have my family at the World Cup would probably be the highlight of my year, the best thing to happen personally. It would put it back in perspective that it’s just not about playing footy. It’s about the relationship you create with your family.
Family to me means absolutely everything. I would always pick my family first over my career because it’s all you have. They mean a lot to me because they’ve been there every step of the way, they’ve been there no matter what.
Being the youngest of four boys has helped me to play against the bigger bodies in the NRL. When I was young I was fast but I didn’t really have much strength. My older brothers taught me the grit that I needed to get to the top.
I will be forever thankful for my families support. I'm now looking forward to repaying them with a Rugby League World Cup debut and another strong year in first grade for the Bulldogs.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs and Fiji International Rugby League Winger