When it comes to my footy, it’s always been about the bigger picture for me.

Last summer, was a perfect example of that.

I haven’t spoken about this too much, but my career could have taken a very different turn in the way of changing clubs.

As is industry practice, clubs and players are always being advised of potential opportunities and interests across the game and my manager did make me aware that a rival club was genuinely interested to see if I would be open to making a switch in jerseys.

The move would mean more money for this coming season and greater job security, as well as further opportunities at NRL level.

For some players, it was probably a no-brainer. We’re in the game for such a small period of time, we’re always told to seize every opportunity that comes our way.

But before I could give it any real time to mull over, Des Hasler was announced as the new coach of Manly and immediately my manager said that I have to stay put.

Des is without question one of the best coaches rugby league has ever seen and my manager knew that it would be in my best long-term interests to remain exactly where I was.

I’d actually like to think, that regardless of the offer that might have been there from the club in question, I’m the kind of person that has never backed down from a challenge. And cracking into Manly’s starting 13 on a regular basis marked a real test of character.

As many could expect, I’ve come to really like Des. We had a frank and open discussion in the lead-in to round two this year, where Des was really honest about what he had seen from me but equally what I needed to do to ensure senior opportunities.

Last year I was a bit scared going to first grade. Not out of fear of not being able to perform in a team environment, but more so being able to play off my instincts, which has been a key pillar as to how I have made my way into the NRL.

I’ve always had the creative license to run at the markers, and to take the game on after each tackle in the set.

My initial fear was that I would struggle to be able to replicate that at the top level.

But Des made it really clear that with my selection into the game, comes with the license to back myself when I see an opportunity to exploit the opposition’s line.

“You’re a good runner and you’re a hard tackle. Continue to make that a focal point of your game,” Des said.

Just as important to me has been Apisai Koroisau, who is more of a brother than a teammate.

When I came to first grade he was the first player to help me, despite playing the same position at hooker.

Apisai took me under his wing and even made the effort to watch a few of my NSW Cup games, letting me know which areas I needed to work on.

When he got injured last season and I came in as replacement, he would still be letting me know where I could do better.

He has taught me more than he knows.

I’m not sure if I ever told him, but we actually first met when I was 13 years old.

I saw him in Guildford West (Sydney Suburbs) having a coffee with a few of his mates and I walked passed and to one of my boys I was like “That’s Apisai Koroisau”.   

I remember walking passed, I was too shy to even go shake his hand and I just kept looking back at Koroisau, and a couple years later I’m playing alongside him.

I know I’m at my best when I’m running forward and taking the game on, which is why Des has challenged me to add that as a string to my bow.

Because I am coming off the bench, I want to be able to make an immediate impact when I come onto the ground.

Hookers nowadays have to be so much more dynamic than we once were… Damien Cook has changed that for us all. His running game is enormous and he shows that if you’re able to build constant pressure on the opposition forwards, you’re always going to be able to find a hole in the line to exploit if you work hard enough.

For me, it comes down to giving my teammates every opportunity to make forward metres.

That’s actually something that John Hopoate has constantly said to me ever since I was a kid.

John and the Hopoates’ are longtime family friends and have always been strong influences over my career.

John coached me throughout my juniors when I was growing up in Parramatta. He was actually the person who drove me to my trial with Manly. He has always been in my corner.

John will be the first person to tell you he has made mistakes, but behind the scenes, he has done a lot for our community. He doesn’t want any kid to go through what he went through and I appreciate that.

Above all, I’m grateful to have more than just my Mum and Dad to parent me throughout my childhood.

All my Aunties, Uncles and even Grandma (Mum’s side) would even lecture me as well, to make sure I was staying on the right path.

I will never forget the endless sacrifices my Mum and Dad made for my siblings and I… I come from a family of eight kids – five boys and three girls, so you could imagine how hard it was for my parents to come home from work, and quickly bite something down before taking us all to our various training and games during the weekdays.

When I reflect on what my parents did for us kids, just to ensure we could have better lives… well, it has never gone unnoticed.

Dad would get up at 5am everyday for work, and finish around 1:30pm – he would manage to fit in an hour of gym before rushing home so we could take us all to our after-school sports with Mum.

He would then get us all home by 9pm, and do it all again the next day.

I’m forever grateful for my parents, and I know that one day I will pay them back for what they did for us.