Back again with another interview, this time with Sione Faumuina, a former Canberra Raider, New Zealand Warrior, Hull FC player, North Queensland Cowboy and Castleford Tiger.
He spoke to us about his career, his autobiography, how he wants to change the lives of young people and other areas.
1. Your rise from the junior system in Auckland into the NRL world was quite rapid; was it something you were expecting or was it a shock for you to play so early?
It was definitely a shock and happened very quickly. I went from playing in our local under 19 side then moving up to our reserves then senior side, making the Auckland rep team and NZ under 18 side. Before I knew it, I was turning up for pre-season training at the Raiders. All this happened within 8 months.
2. Your first-grade debut came with the Canberra Raiders; why Canberra and what was it like playing first-grade for the first time?
It was between the Roosters and Raiders and I chose the Raiders – sorry, my Mother chose the Raiders because they had a hostel which was run by a Samoan couple. The Roosters were going to put me in a house with other players and no adult supervision. My debut was made more memorable because it was against the Warriors in Auckland. My whole family and extended family showed for my debut and I’ll never forget that.
3. d had your most successful period as a player; what did it mean to you to return home and play for your hometown team?
Returning home was a blessing and a curse. My first year at the Warriors, I was in and out of first grade. I was more concerned with going out and having a good time with my mates then footy. My second year was a lot better as I knuckled down and really got stuck into training. Having my family around was a huge blessing but looking back, I was very selfish with some of the decisions I made.
4. By your own admission, you were not the player or the leader you wanted to be because of off-field indiscretions. Looking back, what would you have done differently and what would you tell your former young self?
Playing in the NRL is no easy feat and the profile that comes with it can be used to do great things. If I had my time again, I would have done a lot more community work. I would use my profile to add value to people and organisations. Being a positive role model is easy when you have core values and beliefs which I know I did, unfortunately when I consumed alcohol, that all went out the window. I would also start to create a life after football and also mentor young players that were coming through. “As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way”. I was given a great opportunity and I didn’t value it.
5. At what precise moment did you realise that you had to change your ways and become a better person and role model?
When I had my first child, suddenly it wasn’t about me anymore. I finally had a reason to change and the thought of my children reading about Dad and all the trouble he was in was scary. It’s been 7 years since I played and I’m using whatever profile I have left to be a role model now. Basically making up for what I should’ve done during my career.
6. You released your autobiography ‘The Second Phase’; what prompted you to release the book and what do you hope its release achieves?
The purpose was to get my message out and basically say, “hey, I really stuffed up but I’ve turned my life around. Here’s how I did it”. I wanted fans to see the other side of professional sport. Tell my side of the story and also share how I overcame my alcohol addiction. My mentor put it best when he said: “if we can’t help each other, what’s the point in gathering experiences”. Basically, I’m sharing my mistakes and the main message is that you don’t let your past dictate your future.
7. If you could give any budding rugby league player some advice, what would it be?
“No guarantees in professional sport” is what another mentor of mine would always say. Playing in the NRL is an opportunity, value it. The traits that rugby league teaches you can be applied to every aspect of your life. Stay grounded and work hard on and off the field and always remember that you are a reflection of your club, family but more importantly yourself. Be a pillar in your community and know that young people are looking up to you. Don’t look at being a role model as added pressure, look at it as an honour.