Dad wanted me to be a rugby league player from the day I was born. He trained me from eight to 16 and made me the player I became. But Mum was there the entire time. She drove me across the countryside for training and made sure I had the special boots I needed.
Growing up, I didn’t appreciate the sacrifices my older sisters, Krysten and Melinda, made for me and my footy training. But my love for them has magnified over the years.
Melinda is a hairdresser and used to experiment on me. One time I ran on to the field with bits of blond and pink in my hair. I called it my hot-cross-bun look.
Dad developed dementia after I moved to Canberra to play. He’d always watched me train, but suddenly he began missing days. It turned out that Mum couldn’t bear to bring him because he had deteriorated so much. It was so hard on her – he needed 24-hour care.
After Dad died in 2008, Mum changed careers from pathology to nursing. She now cares for people with dementia. She wanted to give back to the people who treated Dad so well.
My sisters and I have lockets with Dad’s ashes in them. Mum gave them to us as presents. The remainder of his ashes are in her bedroom in Goulburn.
My first crush was Pamela Anderson in Baywatch. But at that age I lacked confidence. I had acne
on my back and would say I had an ear infection to avoid swimming.
My first girlfriend lived in the same town as me, Goulburn. She was 14, a bit younger than me. Our relationship was on and off for a couple of years but finished when I moved to Canberra at 17 to join [NRL club] the Raiders.
I met [TV presenter] Liz Cantor in 2010 at a charity walk. When I returned from Australia’s Four Nations RL squad, things evolved between us. We spent New Year’s Eve 2011 together in Sydney, but went our separate ways after that. She is a lovely person, and is now married to a lovely guy.
When it comes to partners, I’ve always been selfish, as football was No. 1 and hanging out with the boys after footy was No. 2. But by the time I met [Married at First Sight star] Susie Bradley, I was no longer playing full-time.
Our relationship began when she liked my photo on Instagram. Our mutual likes continued, then we began to chat. Our first weekend together was on the Gold Coast in January. I immediately felt comfortable around Susie. She was different to what you saw on TV.
I was sacked from Cronulla in 2014 after a photo taken in a pub bathroom made it appear I was urinating into my mouth. My sisters were disgusted, but that soon switched to concern. They wanted to make sure I was okay.
Mum said the only person I hurt was myself and I was the only one who could fix it. I have caused her a lot of grief, but she has stuck by me throughout. I call Mum my best friend. I can always count on her.
Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. I returned from Cairns, where I was playing with Northern Pride in the Queensland comp, to Goulburn to support her. I didn’t think about the possibility of Mum dying, as it’s the worst thing that could ever happen. Thankfully, she’s good now.
Mum worked right through her chemo because she didn’t want to let anyone down. But that’s what Mum is like. She will help anyone.
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This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale October 20.