I’ll play anywhere for my team
I had been in the Penrith system since I was five years old. Penrith was home to me, and I honestly thought I’d play my whole career at the Panthers.
I’m grateful for all the chances I got there. Apart from my family and friends, the Panthers and Penrith juniors were the biggest parts of my life for as long as I remember.
The fans and my mates there made me feel like family, and I have many memories at Penrith that I’ll cherish for life.
Family is number one for me. My beautiful wife Purdy and I have two young kids – Orlando who’s one and half, and my daughter Indigo, who is eight months.
And in making a decision to leave the Panthers, they, and how I behaved as their father, were in the front of my mind.
I felt that if I wasn’t going to be playing football then I wouldn’t be able to provide for them. That weighed so heavily on me.
It came out in the media that I only wanted to play fullback and that’s why I wanted to leave Penrith. That wasn’t the case.
I was asked what my preferred position is and I answered fullback, but it’s been taken out of context and become, ‘I only want to play fullback’.
I spoke to Dean Pay before I joined the Bulldogs and reassured him about that and told him I was happy to play whatever best suited the team. To play NRL, put me in whatever position you want me to play and I’ll do whatever I can to play well in that position.
He understood that.
I’d GO HOME AND BE WORRIED
I’ve always loved rugby league but the stress that I was under was nothing like I’d experienced in life before.
I had just bought my first home in Penrith. I thought I was going to live in it for a long time with my wife and kids, and set up life there.
Then everything was happening and I felt I had to relocate, potentially sell my house, move and start over. That was very hard, and maybe I kind of blamed football for that for a while.
I would go home every day and be worried. ‘What’s going to happen with the kids?’ I’ve got this beautiful life planned out in my head, that I’m going to give my wife and kids, and at that time I couldn’t think of a way clear.
Purdy was worried that I wasn’t as happy as I was last year, when I got to the stage of captaining New Zealand, and the opportunities I had playing for my club in my preferred position. Enjoying my football.
This year, with me not knowing where I stood at Penrith, she noticed a big change in me. I wasn’t myself. My parents noticed it too. A lot of people noticed it.
My first day of work at the Bulldogs, Purdy said she noticed another change. That I have a sense of direction now. I know what I have to do.
Ever since I had stopped being chosen to play for the Panthers I trained my butt off because I knew I had to go to a new club and be fit and strong. I knew I had to stay at my peak and be ready for an opportunity to show what I have. That’s the person I am.
It was a tough time. But my manager Tyran Smith, who is like family to us, reassured me and we had a plan. We achieved it and it’s turned out to be the best thing my wife and kids have ever done.
I believe all of this has made me a stronger person. A person who has grown up fast, is a lot more mature, and able to make a big decision as a father. I feel as the father of a family we’ve been through a big change together and it’s made our family a lot stronger and closer.
It was hardest decision I’ve ever made but I felt the best thing I could for my wife and children was to leave the club I had been at my whole life, and chase something else where my family is wanted and I’m wanted.
THE BEST FOR MY FAMILY
It’s only been a few weeks but we all notice the change. The boys at the Bulldogs have welcomed me with open arms. The fans, Dean Pay, the whole club just make me feel like I’ve been there for years.
I had other options, but the feeling I got from the Bulldogs was that they were the best for my family and me moving forward.
Under Dean Pay and their system, I felt that I could take my game to another level. They showed a lot of belief in me.
Their value on families is in the culture and in the club and how Dean coaches, I believe, will be very good for me. I was impressed by him and the way he spoke to me when we met.
He talked about how I could fit into the team, the way that I could bring some leadership to the club and take that beyond the game.
I really love helping young local boys come through a club. I find helping people a privilege. At Penrith, I enjoyed working with young players, helping them in any way possible on and off the field.
That’s all I could really ask for. That someone showed a lot of faith in me. Backed me.
Purdy has noticed the difference. When I come home from training I don’t look stressed or drained or unhappy. I don’t have that dread of not knowing where I’m going to be.
At the Bulldogs I know exactly what they want, where they want me and what I need to do to get my game better.
I just go about my work. Being genuine, being real, not lying – that’s how I was bought up. I feel that’s what helps me play good football.
Knowing when I go to bed at night that I’m a good person. Knowing that I’ve done the right thing that day.