I have followed Sione Faumuina’s career from the beginning and have had the pleasure of getting to know him. I have interviewed him, thanks to his involvement with the Easts Tigers, and have now read his story, thanks to his new book. Honestly, I thought I knew how this article would pan out – another ‘former bad boy turns his life around, writes a book and makes a comeback’ story.
However, as I read his thoughtful and inspirational autobiography, The Second Phase, and discussed it with him, I realised that to write the article that way would be to do him a great disservice because this story is not just about Sione Faumuina.
Certainly, on a superficial level, that is what any autobiography is about, the person. However, this is no ordinary sports book, it has the humour, but gone are the endless anecdotes about team mates and things that happened on tour.
This is a raw and edgy book that lays bare the truth about Sione, his life, his career and, in graphic detail, his mistakes. As a young man who signed his first professional contract at 18 years old, he has made all the mistakes you can make; money, alcohol, women, ‘celebrity’ he has done it all, while battling depression on occasions as well.
As you probe a little deeper you realise that the book and any thoughts of playing again do not have a lot to do with the man himself or his legacy. Here is a man who is extremely happy in his life. All of the elements, his fiancé, his daughter, his business interests and his coaching career are working together as well as they have in a very long time.
He feels he does not need to prove anything to anybody.
We are all aware of the challenges facing our game, no one who takes even a passing interest in rugby league can have missed the tragic passing of so many talented young men in the last few years. The recently announced changes to the structure of the National Youth Competition are a sign the governing body realises the need to make changes.
At a time when the health and welfare of the youngsters in our game is more prominent in our thinking than it has even been before here is a man who wants nothing more than for the next generation to learn from the mistakes he made both on and off the field.
In fact, his comeback was meant to be playing for the Tigers ‘Open’ grade team, though as it transpired the Tigers are not fielding an ‘Open’ side in 2017. Several talented young players were considering leaving the club and Sione hoped the lure of playing with a former NRL player might be enough to keep them at the club. It would also give him an opportunity to use some of his newly developed coaching skills.
It was Tigers Intrust Super Cup coach Scott Sipple who approached Sione about the prospect of playing in the club’s top side rather than in ‘Opens’. Having lost well over 200 games of Intrust Super Cup experience at the end of 2016 he could see the benefit of having such an experienced player around his young charges. The club has recruited well, however 156 games of NRL and Super League and test experience cannot be easily ignored.
While cautious about whether his 35-year-old body will be up to the challenge Sione could not turn his back on the chance in helping the young side and sharing his knowledge and experience with them. His story has been written, but it has not finished, in giving back to the game and community, Sione is now looking to his future.
The Second Phase by Sione Faumuina is now available from Angus and Robertson Bookworld.