Leaving home at 4am for training is a sacrifice promising young Manly centre Tevita Funa is happy to make.
Even a two hour trip from Sydney’s west to Narrabeen six days a week won’t wipe the smile off this impressive young man’s face.
For Funa, this is his moment. One of seven children to Tongan parents, his first full-time contract with the Sea Eagles is about providing for his family just as much as it is about himself.
“I am the oldest boy, so there is a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. When I’m away from footy, I am with my family trying to help and guide them the right way,’’ Funa said.
Fortunately for Funa, he did enough in his 14 games for Manly in 2017 after overcoming a knee injury suffered in round three. A prolific tryscorer, the talented centre and quality goal-kicker was a real shining light in Manly winning the Holden Cup premiership for the first time.
He also had his own fan club on grand final day with the family proudly wearing maroon and white t-shirts with ‘Funa 3’ across them. The last minute victory over Parramatta was made even more special with Tevita kicking the winning goal after the siren.
“My family is my drive. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They are my backbone,’’ Funa said.
“I think of my siblings when the going gets tough. It might be my name in the spotlight but to me, it is about putting the Funa family name up there as well.”
Funa knows too well the opportunity presented to him at the Sea Eagles, making that 3.30am alarm a little easier to face.
And he only needs to think of the hard concreting work he did with young team-mates Manase Fainu and Haumole Olakau’atu, also undertaking pre-season with the senior squad, to remind him how fortunate he is at the moment.
“I used to get up at 4.30am to do concreting so waking up at 3.30am to go to do what I truly love is a lot easier,’’ Funa said.
“When I arrive at training early, I do some ‘extras’. I work on my flexibility as my body is pretty stiff in general.
“The first week of pre-season training was very tough and it was hard to get out of bed, but at the same time, it has been really fun.
“The environment Trent (Barrett) and the staff have created here has a homely feel about it. It certainly has made me feel comfortable training with the boys.”
Following training, Funa then battles Sydney’s heavy traffic on his way home. In his eyes, the slow drive is his chance to express his faith.
“Religion is a big part of me. I try to go to church every Sunday with my family and grandparents,’’ he said.
“Whenever I feel down or have no power, I pray to Jesus Christ. When I can, I try to give praise back so on my way home after footy, I’m usually listening to church songs.
“Whatever you do in life, you have always got to sacrifice something to get somewhere, so a two hour drive to training and back is nothing compared to what lies ahead for me in the future.
“I am just trying to be the best person I can be on and off the field. I am just not representing myself, I am representing my family, the Manly Club, and Jesus Christ as well.”