Rabbitohs player Tyrell Fuimaono tells you, our Members, in his own words about his journey to first grade Rugby League and the challenges he faced along the way.
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I grew up out West between St Clair and Mt Druitt; just me, my Mum and my sister Taliah. Just the three of us getting along. I think adversity is a massive thing in an upbringing and it makes you who you are.
We had to rent our house out a couple of times and live with Nan and Pop just so we could keep it but I’m very grateful.
I started playing Rugby League when I was about three years old. My Dad knew a guy from work that was managed a team and had a kid pull out and Dad thought it was a good idea to put me in under 6s when I was three. The kid’s name was Joshua and they had already put his name on the back of the jersey so I wore Joshua around for the rest of the year. I just jumped in and started playing. I think I cried and carried on a few times but eventually I was fine and played all the way through.
I am really grateful for what my Mum did. She was a single Mum from when I was the age of five and she managed to keep our house with a mortgage. She was an aged-carer and started early, about 6:30am, so from the age of 7 or 8 I took the responsibility of getting us ready for school, doing Taliah’s hair and we did that all the way through primary school. That’s why it was really hard leaving them because it had just been the three of us for so long.
I haven’t done it in a while but I hate seeing food go to waste. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and my Mum couldn’t really cook and if we didn’t eat her cooking she would say we’d have to starve. I think that’s when my sister and I really started appreciating everything. When I started at Souths the team couldn’t get through all the fruit they provided and we were offered to take it home. I realised I wouldn’t be able to eat that much and decided I would give it to those who would. I was seeing someone at Glebe at the time and near the train tracks you could see all these tents. I took the left over fruit, put it in the back of my Ute, parked up and just walked down there and gave out some fruit. I did it a few times whenever we had left over stuff in pre-season. I don’t do it as much as I would like to now but hopefully if I establish myself as a role model in the game I would like to do things not just for the poor but the extended communities out West too. It’s hard when you are a nobody, you don’t get as much pull but definitely if I establish myself as something I will, if I can make a difference in anyone’s life, try to implement something.
What makes me wake up every day and motivates me is the hope that eventually I can make life easier for myself, my Mum and my sister – I don’t want Mum to have to work so hard. Taliah is doing her own thing, she plays footy and was playing for the Aussie Rugby 7s before a shoulder reconstructions – she’s a little athlete.
Originally I went to Hills Sports but my Mum wanted me to transfer over to Patrician Brothers’ College in Blacktown because I was mucking around too much at school so she thought sending me to a more educated system would be more beneficial for me. It kept me on a straight line. I really do believe I benefitted going to a private school because it kind of kept me away from most of the things that were evident in my area. I see a lot of the people now that I grew up with and they aren’t doing too well with drug addictions, crime and things like that so I was kind of glad I wasn’t around that. It provided me with a better environment and kept me more focused and I surrounded myself with people who had similar goals and ambitions. Most of the kids that went to the school had their heads pretty screwed on and I reckon that helped me a lot instead of hanging around and getting up to no good. It definitely made a massive difference.
I finished school when I was 18 but stayed another year at school and did program pathways so split my year 12 over two years so that I could commit more time to each of my subjects because I was worried I couldn’t get the marks that would get me into university. I did half and half and ended up getting early admission into University anyway so I basically wasted a year in a way. I did however get to play Australian Schoolboys twice and one of them we got to tour Europe so that was one benefit but I think I could have been one year further down the track in everything else if I didn’t stay back another year but it happened.
I studied Business Commerce with a Property Major; kind of property development, property evaluation, along those lines. I got through to my second year and it was only when I started playing full time at Parramatta that I couldn’t quite balance both. My goal is to be in first grade full time, I want to put all of my focus into that so I deferred my degree.
I’ve always had that mentality of life after footy and having something. My Mum always pushed it so it really sunk into me when I was younger. I always wanted to do something after footy but at the time when football was full time I had to put my full focus towards that.
I came through the junior ranks at Parramatta. I was originally a Penrith Junior. I played every rep team that there was coming through including Junior Origins, Junior Kangaroos, U15 schoolboys, U18 schoolboys, etc.
I played three years of 20s at Parramatta and Madge approached me after our Junior Kangaroos game last year. I liked what they were doing at the Club and I liked a lot of the players that were here already so it seemed like a good opportunity. I’ve got cousins out here and I used to catch the train out, spend the weekend and go to the beach. I always wanted to live out here and so did my Mum. Originally that was my plan – to move out here and find my feet and bring my Mum and Taliah with me. I didn’t want to leave and be incapable of supporting my Mum and sister. Fortunately, my Mum got a new job around the same time I moved here and she’s doing really well so I kind of stepped out here on my own and I’m doing my own thing for the first time and it’s been a big step as a person but I think I’ve done it very well. I enjoy having space but I like having someone to talk to. Growing up my Mum, Taliah and I were really close. I feel a bit lonely but Taliah and my uncle see me a lot and having them come around is good. Doing my own thing makes me become a role model for my sister and showing her a good example of what she can do if she wants to.
When I made my debut, Madge didn’t really tell me but said it in a team meeting and I nearly teared up. I was overwhelmed. I think everyone when they first find out, they turn to water because I know for me that has been my number one goal for my whole childhood, to play first grade football. It is unbelievable that it came true. I was really stoked and I had my extended family come watch me play and we won that game and I ran over and jumped the fence to my family and it was unbelievable.
But it’s still a challenge. I think now that I have achieved one goal, it is a stepping stone really and that’s the way I want to look at it and not to become complacent. I have further opportunities to really find my feet and continue to grow as a player, better myself every week and hopefully it will amount to a long career. I don’t want that to be it and I’m striving to become better.
I’ve got a reminder every day with a tattoo that reads ‘Proud but never satisfied’. You’ll always hear that kid did this and that but then he never did anything with his life. I will never become complacent.
I’ve always been taught to never take anything for granted. With Rugby League opportunities on and off the field are becoming more available so one thing I always push myself is to never say no to anything. What the game provides you with is the chance to make the most of it with the time. I see people that unfortunately didn’t reach their goals because they didn’t make the most of opportunities when they did arise. So I try to do any study and certificate that the game is going to provide for me and support me. I know when you are in the game everyone wants to know you but I’m sure after – even if you are not a successful player – if you’ve got something else going for you then you have benefited for the game. If you can get yourself a good job after footy then it’s all been worthwhile.
Moving clubs is a big thing especially as a younger person. I came to the Club and I really wanted to earn everyone’s respect as a player as much as being everyone’s mate so that is what was really important to me. I wanted to train hard and be a good person so everyone respected me.
I find I’m settling in now that I’ve started to play. I’ve made some really good mates in my time that I’ve been here and that’s made the transition from moving out and living in a different area, making those close mates has made it a lot easier.