Never lose faith in where you are going. The road will seem too steep and too long at stages, but if you believe in yourself, you will endure and eventually reap the rewards of your journey.
It’s the pre-season of 2008 and the Brisbane Broncos under 20s squad is preparing for the inaugural NRL National Youth Competition. I’m coaching the Broncos first NYC team and there are young players showing up from everywhere. Promising St George Backrower Ashton Sims has joined the NRL squad and his two younger brothers Korbin and Tariq have come with him. Korbin is only 15 and is sent to a junior club. Tariq is about to turn 18 and joins the under 20s. He is about 88kgs and plays wing, I’m told. In our opposed sessions and trials Tariq is willing but drops more balls than he catches and looks awkward, almost a bit lost. When the time comes to trim the final numbers for the start of the season, he misses the cut and is sent back to Brisbane Norths, one of our affiliate clubs. Tariq is devastated and approaches me, passionately questioning what he needs to do to get back into the squad. I give him encouragement to keep playing well and improving and I would keep an eye on him. As the year progresses the feedback from Norths is positive and after watching him play a couple of times I’m impressed by his attitude and physicality, but still can’t see him breaking through as a winger. We decided to try him in the backrow. He starts to get a few more wraps, so I call him up for one game because of representative commitments. We have 7 players in the QLD under 20s team and knowing his unbreakable belief to be a permanent member of the Broncos, and the highly likely scenario that this will be his only opportunity for the season, I call him in for a chat. In no uncertain terms I tell him that this will be his one game for the year and to enjoy it. I was not trying to crush him; more protect him so that he wouldn’t feel down when the representative players returned the following week. He played ok and thanked me for the opportunity and went back to Norths. A month or so later he fronts me unannounced before training. “What have I got to do to be part of the team next year?” he passionately asks looking me straight down the barrel. I say “Tariq you’re not going to make it as a winger, and I love your attitude and physicality but at 88kgs you’re too small for the backrow. So, I’ll tell you what. You come back at the start of pre-season at 100kg and I will give you a go in the backrow. That’s it mate, take it or leave it.” Knowing he had only a few months to put the weight on, I thought if we see him again at least we know he is 110% committed and worth a shot. A week before 2009 preseason begins, he walks into the gym and weighs himself. He is 100kg and looks fantastic. You could tell he had worked hard to put the weight on the right way. He played every game in 2009 and was rewarded with a spot in the NRL offseason squad in 2010. The same year he was named the NYC player of the year. Unfortunately, he left the Broncos in 2011 and made his NRL debut for the Cowboy and has gone onto to play 174 NRL games, 2 Origin games for New South Wales and 5 test matches for Fiji.
There are going to be times in our sporting, business and personal lives when our belief is going to be severely tested. People will tell us things we don’t want to hear and appear to block our way. In these times it might seem that you’re the only person that believes in you, and that’s the only person that must. It didn’t bother Tariq. He knew where he was going. He didn’t need me to open any doors for him either, he just kicked them all down himself.