Siliva’s rise from scrapheap to star
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