Revealed: Grit behind Tesi Niu’s footy flair
THE grit behind the footy flair of Brisbane Broncos rookie Tesi Niu can be revealed, with his mother speaking of the effort the brilliant young teenager has put into moulding himself into the player he has become.
Tesi, who made his debut against the Roosters on June 4 from the interchange bench, is set to be handed the No.1 jersey starting position against the Gold Coast Titans this weekend.
Unlike the clash against the Roosters when Tesi's parents, his brothers, sister and cousins gathered around the family television like bushmen drawn to an outback camp fire, his family will be able to attend Suncorp Stadium due to easing COVID-19 restrictions..
It is a tightly knit family. Indeed his mum Lesieli declined three tickets to attend the debut match against the Roosters because she and Tesi junior thought it best his debut be viewed from their Inala home so more family and could be together to share the moment.
Asked what her son would have been thinking in the lead-up to breaking into the NRL, Lesieli said: "His family and what he has done for us. That is the first thing on his mind.''
Younger brother Pulete, the baby of five siblings, said he was proud.
"He grew up on the streets playing touch and footie on the roads and has worked hard to achieve his dream.'' Pulete said.
"This was always be his dream and it came true. For me I am proud to be his little brother.''
And Niu did plenty of hard work to earn his NRL place in the Broncos' top squad, believe me.
On the surface you think because Niu made Queensland junior team after Queensland junior team, season after season as he grew up, that talent was getting him into those representative sides.
But plenty of hard work went into winning those state jumpers, and a considerable of fortitude as well.
His resolve was first sighted after Tesi was a shock omission from the Queensland under 12 side in 2013 following the state trial in Hervey Bay.
Broncos recruitment ace Brian Edwards, who ultimately signed Tesi, was at the carnival and could not believe his eyes when he saw Niu's name missing from the Queensland team sheet.
He knew Tesi had the goods.
"It was hard for him and it was hard for me,'' Lesieli recalled.
"He was sad on that day because everyone was in shock when he did not make that team.
"I looked at him and he looked at me and then he looked down.
"And on the way home he was crying, and I said to him 'don't cry, if you can't make it, it just means you have to try again. If it is hard, then try again. Don't give up Tesi'. And I never gave up on him.''
Indeed Tesi, a Forest Lakes Magpies and Souths Acacia junior from Richlands East State School, never missed selection in another Queensland junior team again.
"The under 13 15, 16, 18, 19s, he made it to the Queensland team and he played for the Australian (junior and schoolboys) team,'' Lesieli recited. "I knew his dreams would come true.''
It was hard work again for Niu when he would rise from his Inala bed at 3.30am so he could catch a lift with his mother on the 27km journey to Marsden SHS for team weights training.
Mum had to leave home early to get to her work place by 5am, meaning there was a long lag time between Tesi arriving at the school gate and the gym opening at 6am.
The early lift with Lesieli was his only way of getting to school early to train in the gym before school.
Sometimes Lesieli would drop him off at the bus shelter opposite the school and continue onto work, sometimes she would wait with him because "I felt sorry for him''.
"I'd ring my boss and say I had to drop my son and wait with him at the school (until the gym opened at 6am).''
It was cold, he was tired, but the hard work, the sacrifice by both Tesi and his parents paid rich dividends when he made his NRL debut aged.
"Look at him now,'' his mother reflected. Look at him now indeed.