Street-wise Fa’alogo on the right path28/10/2018 - Author: admin
HAPPY DAYS: David Fa’alogo cracks a smile during Knights training yesterday. Picture: Jonathan CarrollDAVID Fa’alogo was never one of those kids identified at an early age by an NRL club, signed to a scholarship and nurtured through the juniors until he was ready for first grade.
He learned all he needed to know growing up in the mean streets of south Auckland and playing for Mt Albert Lions, the famous club that has turned out more than 30 Kiwi internationals.
To give you some idea of the district that was Fa’alogo’s childhood home, he admitted yesterday that “some parts” were not that far removed from the suburbs depicted in the cult movie Once Were Warriors.
“It’s an insight into what we were brought up in,” he said of the 1994 film starring Temuera Morrison.
“It’s not exactly like that. Maybe some situations.
“I grew up in sort of a tough neighbourhood, but you learn from that, obviously through footy and life itself. But I’ve come away pretty good.”
Rugby league was Fa’alogo’s ticket to a better life, but it was not until comparatively late in the piece that he was able to cash it in.
Until he was 23, he was working as a labourer and playing for Mt Albert in the Bartercard Cup, a competition where the faint-hearted do not tend to enjoy long careers.
“It’s pretty tough,” he said. “There’s a lot of old fellas running around thinking they’ve still got some good stuff, which they have. I came out of that system and did pretty well for myself.”
Fa’alogo said he was happy “playing with my mates” until he was offered a chance to join Newtown in the NRL’s feeder competition, the NSW Cup.
Soon afterwards, South Sydney released Chris Walker to join the Roosters and had some room to move under their salary cap.
“I was 23,” Fa’alogo said. “I was a late bloomer when I debuted . . . I was just at home, enjoying myself, playing footy, and I realised I wanted to play professional league, so I decided to make the move.”
For the hard-running prop or back-rower, it was a case of better late than never.
He proceeded to play 142 games for the Rabbitohs and 12 Tests for New Zealand, one of which was their World Cup triumph against Australia in 2008.
A year later, he left Redfern for Huddersfield Giants, with whom he fully expected to play out his career.
But after three seasons and 56 games in Super League, an unexpected call from Knights coach Wayne Bennett – assistant tactician for the Kiwis during their World Cup campaign – tempted Fa’alogo to have a final fling in the NRL.
After starting the season in reserve grade, Fa’alogo made a stirring debut for the Knights in round three, grinding out 151 metres in the win against North Queensland.
He has now played in eight consecutive games and shown enough, at the age of 32, for the club to announce yesterday he had earned a one-year contract extension.
The veteran enforcer was optimistic that 2014 might not be his last season.
“It feels like I’ve just started playing in the NRL again,” he said. “I’m feeling good at the moment, footy-wise and the body as well.
“It’s just exciting times for me and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.”
On Sunday, Fa’alogo will have his parents and siblings in the crowd at Mt Smart Stadium, cheering him on against the Warriors, the home-town club he said never showed any interest in signing him.
“They will obviously have something to prove, but we do as well,” he said. “We want to go over there and win and come away feeling good.”
Fa’alogo said he felt blessed to have spent a decade “living the dream” and earning a living from rugby league.
“I’m very happy and fortunate to play this game and get paid for it,” he said.
“There’s a lot of players out there that I know that have the talent but can’t go through with it.
“For me to do that, and have those players watching me back home, it’s probably something they can take away.
“There’s a lot of stories out there like mine.
“It’s whether people want to take something from it and learn from it.”
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