My manager was the one who made the call to me.

I was 22 at the time, just married and life as I knew it was about to change drastically.

“Mahe, there’s no interest in the NRL for you at the moment.”

Man, I was so bummed out… how else are you supposed to take a call like that? To hear that, well, it absolutely rocked my world.

It made me question everything. My ability to play rugby league, my passion for the sport, whether I could have done things differently… these were all the kinds of thoughts that raced through my mind.

I had no idea what I was to do next. Worse off… it wasn’t just me anymore. I had a wife to think about, so it wasn’t just my future I had to worry about. How was this going to affect us here on out?

Mahe Fonua exclusive insight

A few days later, my manager gave me a call, with a proposed career lifeline.

He said there was a club over in England that were interested in me, which of course I later learned to be Hull FC. Looking back now, it was a blessing in disguise for me.

Going over to England, I won a bit of silverware with the team, winning back-to-back Challenge Cups, while in the process making the semi-finals two years in a row.

No doubt the international move helped not only reignite my career, but allow me to blossom into a better footballer.

I was able to apply my trade at a new club after being at Melbourne for so long. Heading over to England, away from family and friends, helped me mature as a person as well.

But again, it was difficult. No footballer, especially at 22, wants to be made to feel as though they aren’t wanted by a team, let alone an entire national competition.

I went to England with a point to prove and the universe found a way to bring me back home.

Mahe Fonua exclusive insight

My wife and I, had only ever known Melbourne; we’d both been born and raised in Melbourne and having to move over to England was pretty tough for the start.

I knew I needed to make the most of my opportunity while I was over in England, so I tried to make a mark on the Super League competition and just let them know what I was all about.

I enjoyed two incredible years in the UK and wouldn’t have changed anything. But in the end, my wife and I needed to get back to Australia.

We were expecting our first child and we’re big family people, and having our first child we thought it best to move back to home.

And whether that was for the NRL or reserve grade somewhere, we were just happy to move back to have that support of family with our first child.

Mahe Fonua exclusive insight

We knew it was gonna be difficult, being first time parents, let alone living on the other side of the world with only a few close friends to fall back on.

So I had a word to my manager at the time and I had asked him to see if there was any interest and I’m more than happy to come back to the NRL, wherever that might’ve been.

Again, born and raised in Melbourne, the Storm was only place I knew.

The stars aligned for me however and I was awarded an opportunity to sign with the Wests Tigers.

I’d never lived in New South Wales, so it wasn’t challenging but it was a journey I was keen to partake in.

It was a new direction for the Wests Tigers and I wanted to be part of it, with the new players and the culture that was building at Concord Oval.

Mahe Fonua exclusive insight 4

Getting a second chance here in the NRL, I’m obviously very grateful to our former coach Ivan, my manager Mario Tartak and the entire West Tigers club for blessing me with a second opportunity to have a crack in the NRL.

I’ve got a pretty simple game plan – run hard and tackle hard.

I’m 26 now, it’s my seventh pre-season, so this time around I have to be a bit more smarter and wiser, make some wiser decisions in my off season.

I’ve been trying to keep myself a bit more fit this time around, and maybe the pre-season this time around will be a defining summer for me.