Mentally, I was still in prison
I remember the day I got out. I was happy. My brother picked me up. I gave him a hug. And said let’s go straight to McDonalds for breakfast. I was starving. It was the start of a new journey.
I was on house arrest for three months and it was hard because I couldn’t get a job. No one would take me on because of my criminal history. I was out of work for almost a year.
I tried to study but I couldn’t. It was the end of 2010-11 when I started a course, to do plumbing. I was still playing footy for Marist Saints, did that for a couple of years.
The transition was tough for me. Mentally, I was still in prison mode.
I got a call-up to play for the Auckland team. I was surprised, and very keen.
Playing footy, nothing else mattered. Every time I went on the field I just played and liked releasing my stress and anger. I had controlled aggression. When I played footy when I was younger I did it with an attitude of rage, but by then I would smash someone, get up, move on to the next job. Footy had changed. It was really positive for me, a stress release.
I was lucky enough to play well in a few of the games. Tyran Smith, now my manager, gave me a call from Australia and said, ‘I’ve seen you play, I reckon I can get you a contract’.
We spoke back and forth and the following week he told me Parramatta was interested. I was surprised. I thought ‘I’m in NZ and I’m a nobody’.
I signed a contract and they started to work on my visa. It took seven months to get it and that seven months was tough.
I questioned if it was really going to happen and I wasn’t alone. A lot of people back home were asking, ‘Are you still going to Parra? Are you talking shit or what?’
Seven months later I got the call that it had been approved. Me and my girlfriend at the time, she’s my wife now, moved over with our oldest son.
I was nervous. To be honest, New Zealand was my comfort zone and I didn’t want to leave.
I’d only been to Tonga before. It hit me when everyone was farewelling me at the airport. It made me think, ‘I’ve got to make it, I don’t want to fuck this up.’
But it’s been the best for me.
I know I’ve made an impact
I played round one. I was cheering because it was the Warriors and growing up I’d supported them and always wanted to play for them. I’d been in the Warriors development system when I got locked up.
I was the starting backrower. I was keen as to get in and rip in. Running out of the tunnel looking at the crowd where my wife, mum and brother were sitting, was a proud moment.
We put mum through a lot as teenagers as all those dramas were unfolding. To see her after the game happy was something that I always wanted my mum to be, proud of me.
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It's been a long journey of ups and downs but really grateful to reach ?@nrl games for the @theparraeels last night . Thank you to the club ,the #blue&gold army fans and the brothers i've played alongside with to reach this milestone ??. Especially to my wife & kids , my family, friends and those who has supported me throughout this journey ✊? Appreciate all the messages of support the past few days ♥️
I met my wife before I got locked up. She’s been there through thick and thin. She’s the greatest. I’ve got three kids of my own and that’s a challenge, tough at times, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
My youngest is a girl and that feels different. My two boys, I’m trying to toughen them up and I don’t want them making the same decisions I made. I try to help them out, stay close, help with homework.
I’m trying to instil values in my kids so they can grow up and hopefully be better than me. Better people.
I’m a walking testament to whatever bad things happen in your life, you can always change it. Don’t let your past dictate your future.
I had it rough growing up but that’s no excuse. I do everything for my family. I just want to set a good example so people look at me and think, ‘he’s not that little street thug anymore’.
Growing up you don’t think about the consequences. What will happen after you’ve done something wrong.
Nowadays I’m older and wiser and know there are consequences to every bad thing you do.
I still get messages from people I was inside with saying, ‘thank you for showing us a path to follow’.
That hits me. They were guys who thought they never had hope.
For them to message me like that, that’s something positive. I know I’ve made an impact on people’s lives.