After a promising career playing college football in America, there’s no one better than inspirational Wentworthville Magpies front-row forward Moses Manu to explain life is a journey.
Desperate to make his mark in first grade, Manu knows all about the setbacks and hurdles that life presents.
“There have been plenty of times I’ve doubted myself,” the 29-year-old says. “Actually there have been so many times and still there are times when I’m training for Wenty that I struggle a bit. But over the years I’ve developed (an ability) to get through hard times, work through it and grind it out.”
Manu’s life experiences go well beyond his time in America playing for the renowned Kansas State Wildcats in packed stadiums with gigantic crowds of 80,000 before returning to Australia to pursue his first love of rugby league.
“I’ve had experiences too with drugs where I’ve used in the past,” Manu admits. “It’s been something that I’ve used to get through the past when I’ve been down and I [incorrectly] thought it was the best thing for that time.”
Moses now believes he is a better decision maker - and wants people to learn from his mistakes. While Manu boasts an incredible resume of achievements that many would dream of, it’s the sharing of that journey that has been his greatest accomplishment.
On the field for the Magpies, Manu is an intimidating figure who you wouldn’t dare to cross paths with. But off it, the father of two boys is a nurturing and gentle soul who is inspiring those around him.
“I’m doing some youth work and case work in Waterloo,” Manu said. “My experience in life has helped me to inspire kids. I’ve been through some hard times in my life that I’m still managing with and I want to inspire the kids.”
Born in Tonga and having lived all over the world including New Zealand, California and Kansas, Manu’s journey began with the Cabramatta Juniors where he played alongside eventual rugby league superstars Jarryd Hayne and Krisnan Inu in the Parramatta Eels’ junior representative teams. Manu was 16 when his parents moved to America for work opportunities, where he tried his hand in grid iron.
“There wasn’t any rugby league in Los Angeles,” Manu says. “I did find a rugby club but it wasn’t a local club. It was a fair way from where I lived. So I thought I would give American football a try and I had a few scholarships offered in my last year of high school. It wasn’t something I wanted, I thought I would just play the game. But I played well enough to get a few offers from Division One schools.
“I thought it was a great experience. I learnt so much and I got a degree out of it, which was a bonus. I did have dreams of going to the NFL but it wasn’t there because my first love was rugby league and I always wanted to come back (to Australia) after I graduated.”
Manu returned to Australia to play for the Newtown jets in 2009 before moving to Queensland to join the Ipswich Jets. After a stint in country rugby league, Manu signed with Wenworthville at the beginning of this season.
As well as becoming a young college football star in the making, Manu earned a degree in social studies that he utilises in motivating young kids with troubled backgrounds. Manu fully understands the sort of troubled upbringing some people experience.
“I’ve had a range of health issues,” Manu said. “Schizophrenia, ADD, all sorts of mental health issues.
Manu isn’t the first player to face difficulties off the field. Several stories dealing with mental health issues have only recently come to light.
Manu is juggling his aspirations of playing first-grade football with his full-time job at Weave Youth and Community Services. It’s something he’s incredibly passionate about in his group and individual case work.
“Most of the kids I work with now look up to me as a role model and what I’ve achieved and who I’ve become. I want to be a good image and be the person I am now.
“That’s what I’m doing with my experiences in showing them how to get through hard times and deal with those hurdles.”
Manu is a shining light for those pushing to reach their goals.
“I really enjoy sharing my story with the kids and letting them know you can get through really hard times but can still achieve your goals.
“My goal is to play first grade for sure. That was my goal when I decided to come back to play for Wenty and play in the VB NSW Cup. It was to play for first grade. It’s something I want to do before I call it quits. It’s been haunting me for the last few years, just sitting around watching and knowing that I’m capable of playing at that level. I’m proving and showing now that I can do that.”
Regardless of how his career turns out, it’s clear from Manu’s determination and spirit that he is already a roaring success.