Manu Ma’u, NRL and Mate Ma’a Tonga representative shares his experiences on the blog as part of Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga/ Tongan Language Week in New Zealand.
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Manu Ma’u. I was born and raised in Central Auckland, Roskill South but am now residing in Sydney with my wife and 3 kids. I’m a current NRL player for the Parramatta Eels.
What was it like representing Tonga for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup?
It was one of the best experiences in my rugby league career. To be able to put on that red jersey and represent my Tongan heritage was everything. Seeing the amount of support and how passionate the people of Tonga were not only in NZ and Australia but around the world was surreal, an experience I’ll never forget.
What is your proudest achievement?
I have a few proud achievements, but probably my proudest moment would be making my NRL debut for the Parramatta Eels in 2014 because it was something I have always dreamed of growing up.
How do you balance league, family and life in general?
The good thing about our schedules is it’s not a 9-5 kinda job. It comes with the benefit of having days off and half-day training sessions so I get more time to spend with my family. Sometimes it’s not always a breeze, there are days where frustration comes to play especially when our team is not doing so well, and you go home feeling like crap but my little family is what keeps me going through it all. We do get that much needed long break after the season to fly back home to see family and friends or take a holiday just to get that down time, and break away from footy.
How do you stay on top of things when injured?
Definitely would be my wife. She has made things easy for me to stay on top of everything especially looking after our kids, all the work load at home and at the same time taking me to all my doctors and physio appointments. This year has been my toughest year so far with injuries having done my cheekbone and eye socket during the Pacific test against Samoa. At the same time my wife had just given birth to our daughter, Ariana and just to throw a spanner in the works while she was still recovering from her C-section I was told to have surgery on my shoulder to fix my rotator cuff, so you could imagine how difficult it would’ve been for us at home, but lucky enough we had family over the last couple weeks from back home who came to visit and help out as well.
What advice do you hope to pass down to your children?
To never give up on your dreams, nothing comes easy but anything can be done when you put in hard work!
Plans and inspirations for the future?
The plan is to play a few more years of league. Life after footy? I’m in the process of doing a course in construction to get my ticket down the track and have something to fall back on after footy.
What is your biggest dislike in todays Rugby League environment?
The negativity of media and social media when things go wrong for footy players. When it’s good it’s good, when it’s bad they’re quick to throw you under the bus!
What is your biggest regret/lesson?
I don’t really like to regret things in life because everything happens for a reason but I will say my biggest lesson was when I was sentenced to prison in 2007 for an assault charge that led me to do 22 months inside. Something I definitely aint proud of but the experience taught me a lot about myself and I was willing to get out and just prove to my loved ones that I can do something with my life. Now I can be an example for my children to learn from my past and see the person I am today.
Photo credit: Parramatta Eels