How Taufa's Pain Drives her Success
If you paid attention to Simaima Taufa during the celebrations, the no-nonsense forward offered little emotion when the Australian Jillaroos were crowned World Cup champions.
Understandably she was spent.
The 24-year-old played 80 minutes in the middle with the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns' never-say-die attitude threatening to spoil the Jillaroos campaign late in the 23-16 victory at Suncorp Stadium.
But despite being crowned 2017 female player of the year, mentally, Taufa was exhausted.
After losing her father to cancer in October 2016, the Western Sydney product originally made a pact with her "biggest fan" to make the Jillaroos squad.
A promise she held on for emotionally and physically for 18 months – to the point she quit her other passion rugby union, rearranged her working life and sacrificed early mornings for training sessions with the help of her close-knit family and high performance staff at local club Mounties.
So determined to reach her sporting dream, it was after the World Cup in January that Taufa began to struggle as the spotlight switched off the women's game for the summer.
"Yeah, I struggled, at the beginning of the year for the Commonwealth Nines in February I felt emotional," Taufa told NRL.com.
"[The World Cup] was that sense of accomplishment, it was relief for me but also sadness.
"Looking back I never really grieved properly with the loss of my dad. I went from losing him in October to heading straight into Australian camp in November. It hit me in January when I thought what do I do now?
"I got side-tracked and lost focus of my next goal because he wasn't there to help me. You get down after a campaign because you miss being around the girls and the journey you've been on but I got sadness through January because reality hit me in the face.
"I lost what was mindful around me. I was just really sad inside."
So desperate to get in contact with her dad in some way, she went to visit him at the cemetery on New Year's Day.
"I always write goals to start each year with what I want to achieve with footy whether it be development or just my own personal life," she recalled.
"I asked him to give me a sign. I cried my eyes out and just was desperate for him to give me anything.
"Literally I never dream but I slept one night and seen Dad by the ocean under a big palm tree and he was smiling. Never said anything, but just looked happy and pain free."
Taufa made the moment a permanent reminder on her skin with a visit to the tattoo parlour a week later.
"All down my back," she smiled.
"A palm tree with patterns of my Tongan culture. It says 'at my weakest I will remain strong', and it has my player number.
"I got that all done in memory of him. I know he's protecting me. It epitomises him to me.
"I know I've lost him two years ago, but now he's with me forever."