When I was 4, my parents moved my four brothers and I from Samoa to New Zealand, and then when I was 12 we moved again to Logan, Brisbane. My parents are hardworking, decent people who worked hard to move us to Australia to give us kids the best chances in life. I was always good at sport growing up – rugby league, boxing, anything – and when I was a teenager, I was signed to the Under 19’s North Queensland Cowboys rugby league squad. Everything was going well until one day I lost my temper on the field during a game, and threw punches at some players and a ref. I was dropped from the Cowboys team and banned from playing rugby league for life.
I was 18 and without footy, was lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so concentrated on enjoying my youth and having fun with my mates. I lived for the weekend – drinking, smoking with the boys – and then the weekend turned into weekdays, and before I knew it I was into drugs and alcohol in a pretty big way. I had also started up boxing again for something to do, as I knew I was pretty good at it, but I hadn’t dealt with my anger issues. One night I was out with my mates and things got out of hand. I was involved in a fight with a couple of bouncers outside a nightclub and I was arrested and charged with grievous bodily harm.
My life changed when I stood in that courtroom and heard the Judge read out my sentence – a four year prison term, with a minimum six month sentence. I will never forget looking over to my Mum and Dad and seeing them break down, I had never seen them both cry at the same time. I felt so ashamed. My mates weren’t in the courtroom that day, they didn’t bother showing up – the mates who were my brothers, the ones who had vowed time and time again that we were family and “one in, all in”. Well where were they at the worst point in my life? The only people who had come to hear me be sentenced were Mum and Dad. And they were heartbroken… they had worked so hard to give me the best shot at life, and this is how I had repaid them.