How long have you been an been playing NRL for?
I started playing Rugby League for an under 7′s team at age 5 so I cant remember not playing footy but this is my 9th year in the NRL.
What inspired you to begin playing?
My father he was the town hero, my hero and I wanted to be just like him.
What were some of the challenges you have faced in your career? Can you tell me why?
The hardest thing for me was moving away from my family. I was just 14 when I first left and was placed in a boarding house in Newcastle, I didn’t last long I was so home sick. At this point, i was already signed with Melbourne Storm, who stepped in and sent me to QLD, which i am very grateful for. Simple because it turned my life and my career around. They send athletes from regional areas to good families in the city. Great people who are willing to feed us, take us to school, drive us to training and treat us like one of the family.
What have been some of the highlights of your career and why?
Where to start…
My whole career has been a highlight. Running out for my first NRL game with the Storm. It doesn’t matter what the history books say no one can take away the feeling of winning a premiership. Every time I put on an origin jersey, its so quick its the hardest rugby league game in the world. Representing my culture in the Indigenous All Stars and Representing my country. And now what we are achieving at South Sydney, bringing this historic club back to being a premiership contender.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Macksville, a small town out the back of Coffs Harbour. Later I moved to Wavell Heights Brisbane.
Which Aboriginal community do you identify with?
My tribe is Dungutti, we are from the North coast of NSW.
Do you feel you have a strong sense of Aboriginal identity?
Yeah I do, I have a huge family they keep me grounded and don’t let me forget where I come from.
Who were your role models when you were growing up? How important were they to who you are and what you do today?
My Father, Mal Meninga and Wally Lewis.
They are the reason I play footy.
Do you have any role models now? Can you tell me about them?
Not really role models but mentors Madge my coach, Craig Bellamy and Shane Richardson. They are all great men at the top of their game and I value their opinion over any.
Have they influenced you in any way? If so how?
My father believed in me when I was a kid and wanted to come home and quit. It must have been so hard for him, I respect him so much for that. Obviously my entire game is due to Madge and Craig. Shane Richardson, Souths CEO is always around when footy becomes political and is my go to man for advice on any off field issues.
Do you think role models differ between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people?
I think it depends on your family and where your brought up. I don’t see why it should be a factor, it wasn’t for me.
Who are the types of people that you believe make a good role model?
What sort of characteristics would they possess? You have to be driven, you have to have goals yourself, you have to set a good example 100% of the time, and basically always get back up never let life beat you.
How do you think you might have been a role model to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people?
I think having a high football profile puts me on the raider for a lot of kids. What I hope they see though is the hard work I have to put in every week to do what I do. As a role model I think going back to school will hopefully be the most influential thing I do, its not my talent, it’s not what i am great at but Im willing to work hard to succeed, thats what I want to be remembered by.
Do you feel you have inspired others to follow their dreams? If so how?
I hope so as I said dedication and hard work are all it takes you can be and do anything you set your mind too and thats the message I try to get across.
What does it mean to you to be a role model?
I take being a role model very seriously. It’s a huge honour with huge responsibility i am still so young so I need to be aware that my actions can effect a lot of people. It’s a little overwhelming at times.
How do you think your Aboriginal identity and heritage has influenced you?
I am so proud of my heritage our people have such a long history here and I think it needs to be a bigger part of what kids these days learn in school. I feel like I represent something great and it makes me try harder everyday in everything I do. If you could give one piece of advice to Aboriginal people, what would you tell them? Know where you come from, be yourself and be proud of it. Take your life into your own hands and make the most of it because you only live once.