Star reflects criminal past, inspires youths


WELLINGTON: Players from the Tongan World Cup rugby league team met youth offenders in Christchurch Men’s Prison.
Manu Ma’u knows what it is like to carry a prison sentence with him after time is served.
In 2007, the now Parramatta Eels and Tongan international rugby league forward spent two years behind bars for his part in an Auckland gang brawl.
He had the time in prison to reflect and decide he wanted to take the sport seriously. He worked hard and was eventually selected for the Warriors.
“I was facing challenges when I got out of prison, going back to my same neighbourhood and seeing my same group of friends that are up to the same thing,” he said.
In the 10 years since, Ma’u has become a feared enforcer in the Australian National Rugby League competition, represented the Kiwis at international level, and now Tonga at this year’s World Cup.
But he did not immediately shake the stigma of a criminal record. While with the Warriors, Australian officials denied him a visa to play away games.
When he was asked if he would speak to a group of youth offenders at Christchurch Men’s Prison, Ma’u jumped at the opportunity.
On Thursday, he was joined by teammates Manu Vatuvei, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Siliva Havili, Ben Murdoch Masila and Will Hopoate to speak to a group of about 40 inmates. –