Siliva’s rise from scrapheap to star

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL - MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

SILIVA Havili be­gan pre­par­ing for life af­ter footy.

Nurs­ing a torn pec­toral and hav­ing not played first grade since June 13, 2016 he thought his once promis­ing rugby league ca­reer would end at 24 af­ter be­ing dis­carded by the Drag­ons.

He was re­signed — at best — to con­tin­u­ing his ca­reer in the Queens­land Cup and putting into place his po­di­a­try de­gree. Be­fore that, though, luck fi­nally swung his way.

De­spite los­ing a World Cup semi-fi­nal to Eng­land while play­ing for Tonga, Havili gained much more — a sec­ond chance. A long-term knee in­jury to Josh Hodg­son in that match had Raiders re­cruit­ment man­ager Peter Mul­hol­land calling.

The pair share a bond with Mul­hol­land sign­ing Havili to St Ge­orge Illawarra from the War­riors.

“I didn’t have a clue what I was go­ing to do,” Havili said.

“The Raiders gave me the life­line that I have al­ways wanted.

“I knew I had a lot to give as an NRL player. Not know­ing what was go­ing to hap­pen was play­ing on my mind. The best thing I could do to get an­other crack was play­ing well for Tonga. It was a tough time for me and my fam­ily.

“When the World Cup came I knew my task was to get an NRL con­tract.”

The Su­per League ex­pressed an in­ter­est but Havili did not want to re­lo­cate his then heav­ily preg­nant wife, Loretta. In­stead he packed his bags and crashed at team­mate Char­lie Gubb’s house for three months be­fore his fam­ily — in­clud­ing young daugh­ter Mau­sia joined him in Can­berra af­ter her birth on Jan­uary 11.

Fam­ily is close to Havili’s heart, with his daugh­ter named af­ter his mother as he pre­pares to spoil his wife and mother on Mother’s Day.

“My daugh­ter gives me a bit more pur­pose and the rea­son to sup­ply and help my lit­tle fam­ily,” Havili said.

“That’s my big­gest mo­ti­va­tion. Nam­ing her af­ter my mum is a Ton­gan tra­di­tion.

“Your par­ents name your first child and be­ing a girl my mum was al­ways go­ing to take her chances.

“My mum has al­ways wanted per­fume from here in Aus­tralia that they don’t sell in New Zea­land. I can get her that per­fume and give it to her next time I’m in New Zea­land.”

The match against Cronulla to­day will mark just the sec­ond time Havili has reached dou­ble dig­its in a first-grade sea­son since mak­ing his de­but in 2014.

On a one-year deal, Havili said he was en­joy­ing life un­der coach Ricky Stu­art.

“Weight has been the big­gest is­sue I’ve had in my ca­reer,” Havili said. “Mary (Drag­ons coach Paul McGre­gor) wanted me around the mid-90s but I told him my body is dif­fer­ent. I can carry my weight as a 100kg hooker.

“(But) I’m look­ing to make Can­berra a home for me and my fam­ily.”

Siliva Havili at Raiders train­ing, and (in­set) with wife Loretta and daugh­ter Mau­sia. . Pic­ture: Kym Smyth

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