I came to the Rabbitohs because I wanted the opportunity. I really love what the Club is about, the culture Madge (Michael Maguire) brings to the Club and the values the Club has.
I joined South Sydney in May last year just after the Queensland Residents game which I was lucky enough to play in. I was at the Broncos since 2011 and had signed there when I was 17.
I missed the 2016 preseason for the Broncos because I got diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis which is an inflammatory bowel disease from the Crohn’s family. So I was a bit underdone during the season and still kind of sick when I moved down here. I played a couple games for the North Sydney Bears and Madge was letting me know I was pretty close to playing NRL so I didn’t really tell the Club the extent of my illness – which was a bad call.
From there it kind of got worse and worse.
I wasn’t really happy with my form and the Club knew I had dropped some kilos and couldn’t really run. I was underweight and couldn’t really last 10 minutes in NSW Cup and decided I had to let them know.
The reason I kept it from them was because I was so close to first grade. I’d never been that close before and that was what I had strived to do since I was a kid. I could see it and could almost reach out and grab it but I physically wasn’t able to do it.
It was a bit hard because mentally I was ticking all the boxes and prepared to do it but my body wasn’t capable of doing what my mind was telling it to do.
The Club were really good, they handled it well. They hooked me up with a really good doctor down here and gave me the rest of the year off so I think I finished playing in round 18 or 19.
In hindsight I didn’t handle it well. What I should have done is moved here, addressed that first, got better then there might have been an opening for me to play first grade. I just wanted to play, I thought “I’ll be right, I’ll get through it.”
The last eight or nine rounds I was doing like a mini-preseason. I was pretty much just in the cardio room the whole time, getting fit and getting my stomach right.
Then the offseason came but I was pretty fresh from not playing so I trained hard and came into preseason in pretty good shape. 105kgs, fit, probably the best shape I’ve ever been in.
But then, third week of this preseason, I broke my ankle in a wrestling drill. It was one of those freak accidents. I broke my fibula, dislocated the ankle and had a grade three syndesmosis on the ligament so I did a pretty good job.
That same night I went into hospital and had surgery. The Club looked after me really well. Madge rang me up that night, Eddie Farah (Rabbitohs Physiotherapist) and Andrew McDonald (Club Doctor) were with me the whole time. Our doctor was one of the guys in the surgery. They looked after me well and I was on crutches until Christmas.
It was pretty hard emotionally, pretty frustrating. I missed the 2016 preseason then I missed the 2017 preseason. But the boys really helped get me through it. Harry Harris (Head Strength and Power Coach), Madge, Eddie and all the boys were really good.
Being injured I’ve travelled and done a bit with Souths Cares since being at Souths and it’s been really good. I was a part of the Indigenous Oral Health Tour at the start of the year in Tuncurry, and we’ve also visited local schools to talk about living well.
During the season last year the team visited the Sydney Children’s Hospital – I got a lot out of that.
At the time I wasn’t in the best headspace and I just wanted to finish the season. It was pretty eye-opening because I thought I was sick but we were interacting with people who were in hospital 24/7 and it really resonated with me.
I’m a proud Indigenous man. When I was in Brisbane I spent five days a week working as a teacher’s aide, freelance Indigenous dance teaching and doing cultural work up there. That’s something I wanted to bring down here.
The fact that Souths is really proud of the Indigenous heritage of the area is something that I was really happy about. Richo (General Manager of Football Shane Richardson) and Madge have spoken about it to me a lot. They’re really proud of the history of the Club and its Indigenous connection so I focused a lot of work with Souths Cares on Indigenous issues to keep in contact with that side of me.
I’m learning a lot. I’ve been in contact with my Indigenous family – it’s a bit of a long story but my mum was adopted so I didn’t have contact with her side of the family. I’ve always wanted to learn about my Indigenous side but it was hard to learn about this stuff when you don’t have an Indigenous family around.
But, growing up, I was lucky enough to go to a high school with the most Indigenous kids in the Brisbane Catholic education system. We had the most Indigenous kids, we had around 70. I did a lot of Indigenous dance and art during school.
I got a job being an Indigenous liaison officer at another high school when I was 19 and playing in the under 20s. Through that I got into contact with other high schools and a few primary schools but when I went into first grade I couldn’t do that job anymore so I had to cut back to one day a week volunteering.
I returned to running about a month ago and now I’m looking to play this Thursday against Wyong for the Bears. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll be in contention for an NRL spot.
An NRL debut would be pretty big, I’ve always had that hunger, I’ve had a couple of setbacks in the past 18 months but I look at guys like Jordan Kahu and Aaron Gray who have had knee surgeries and I think how as bad as my situation was there are guys that had it worse that are doing well.
I’m over the injury, over the sickness, I’m off medication now and I’ve become a bit of a nutrition nut. My diet is what keeps me on top of everything. Paul Devlin (Head of High Performance) and Ryan Pinto (Rabbitohs Nutritionist) helped me out. I was like their little test subject. Ryan took me shopping and I’ve done a lot of practical work with them.
I’m feeling pretty fit – the last five or six weeks I’ve been smashing it on the field. I’m probably as fit and strong as I’ve ever been at this weight.
It’s a bit annoying knowing I could’ve been ten levels above this with a preseason under my belt but knowing that I’m in a good space now I know that when a first grade opportunity presents itself I’ll be ready to take it.
I won’t be second guessing it because I’ve done everything I could to take it. I still have a pretty bright future ahead of me if I’m willing to put in the work. I’m still pretty young.
I want to play NRL and this is the Club I can see myself playing NRL with for my whole career. That’s why I came down here.