With two young children and at the age of 27, Charlie Faingaa is determined to make amends in the game he ‘lost interest’ in for five years.
Contracted to the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles after being a dominant force in the Queensland Cup over the past two seasons, the tough running prop is experiencing his first pre-season in the NRL by training with the Manly squad under Coach Trent Barrett.
Born in Auckland, Charlie was raised in the Sutherland Shire and attended noted rugby league school, Endeavour Sports High, where he played in the open age team alongside current NRL players Martin Taupau, Chase Stanley, and Blake Ayshford to name a few.
Under the coaching of former first grade star Jeff Hardy, Charlie was part of the team that won the Arrive Alive Cup in 2006.
“Martin was our winger. He was tall and skinny back then, but he was kind of like our ‘Jonah Lomu’ because of his big right hand and his ability to fend off,’’ Charlie laughed.
“His body transformation is amazing.”
Upon finishing at Endeavour, Charlie played junior representative football at the St George Dragons in 2007.
An ankle injury in the first year of the National Youth Competition in 2008, combined with the joys of being a teenager, saw him ‘lose interest’ in rugby league.
“I hit the party life. I wasn’t going anywhere in 2008 after the U20s, so I gave rugby league up,’’ Charlie admitted.
“I had five years out of the game. My partner, Hayley, had our first child in 2012, and I was working as a labourer for different companies.”
It was during 2012, and being a father to his son, Corbyn, that a conversation with one of his best mates in Parramatta player, Rory O’Brien, that sparked an interest in returning to rugby league.
“I was watching the boys kicking on with their rugby league careers, and I thought maybe I could give this another crack,’’ he said.
A season with Hurstville United in the St George A grade competition resulted in a premiership. The grand final victory was capped off with Charlie scoring four tries.
His performance caught the eye of an Illawarra scout, who extended an invitation to play for Collegians in the Illawarra competition in 2013 alongside O’Brien. Another premiership, and a try again in the grand final, resulted in St George-Illawarra Coach Paul McGregor offering Charlie a deal to play for the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Cup competition in 2014.
He played the season out for the Cutters, attracting interest from Queensland Cup teams, Mackay, and Redcliffe.
It was Redcliffe that Charlie settled for.
“Redcliffe were very professional and ran their club like any NRL first grade outfit. I didn’t realise how big the Queensland Cup was up there with the media exposure it gets,’’ Charlie said.
“Young kids were stopping me in the street for autographs. It took a while to get used to that.”
The birth of their second child in daughter, Willow, saw Charlie and Hayley decide to make the return home to join family in Sydney despite having a year to run with Redcliffe.
“The Dragons were keen for me to return, and I also had talks with Cronulla and Newtown. My manager mentioned Manly and the exciting partnership with Blacktown Workers,’’ Charlie said.
“Hayley’s dad is a Manly die hard, so when I told him that I might head over to Manly, he couldn’t hide his excitement.
“He loves everything about Manly despite growing up in ‘the shire’. Whenever we get together, he loves talking to me about Manly.”
Charlie will no doubt be talking more about Manly after spending the last few weeks training with the elite squad.
“Trent told me on day one that this will not be easy for me, but whatever I do, not to give up,’’ he said.
“To just hang in there, keep pushing, and that he would be really disappointed in me if I gave up.
“Trent has been happy with my defence and skills, but just wants me to keep working hard on my fitness. My initial aim is to get as fit as I can, and then see what happens in terms of selections come the trials, and the start of the season, be it with Manly or Blacktown.”
And as for the type of player he is, the 116kg prop made it clear.
“I pride myself on leading by example. I let my actions do the talking. There is only one way to run, just straight and hard up the middle,’’ he added.