Kahu inspired by brother's pain
The painful decision of his elder brother to walk away from a promising rugby league career has provided the inner motivation for Jordan Kahu to fight back from two serious knee injuries and finally make his mark on the NRL.
In a twist of fate that sport has a happy knack of throwing up from time to time, Jordan (pictured, left) appears on course to partner Ben Hunt in the halves for the Broncos in 2014, six years after his older brother Jared (pictured, right) played alongside Hunt in the Brisbane team that were beaten grand finalists in the 2008 National Youth Competition.
Once touted as the successor to Darren Lockyer, Jordan has spent much of the pre-season running at five-eighth during team drills and looks set to fulfil the enormous potential he displayed when he made the move from Wellington in New Zealand to famed rugby league school Keebra Park High School on the Gold Coast.
It was a move that was made under difficult circumstances, with Jordan's parents, David and Margaret, splitting up just prior to his departure in January 2008. As a result, David chose to join his son in Australia so that he could help to support him in realising his sporting dreams.
"My brother didn't want to be left alone in New Zealand so he ended up coming as well," Jordan recalls of the Kahu boys' arrival in Queensland six years ago.
Although not as naturally gifted as his younger brother – "I always had to work harder at everything and he sort of just got everything handed to him," says Jared – the elder of the Kahu boys impressed Broncos officials with his attitude and work ethic and quickly worked his way into their under-20s squad.
He formed a lethal combination with Hunt in the halves, playing all but two games in his first season of rugby league and was subsequently signed by the North Queensland Cowboys and appeared set for a bright career in the NRL.
But a trip home to Wellington for the Christmas break in 2008 reignited feelings of homesickness and he failed to return to Townsville for pre-season training early in 2009.
"I don't think people realise as a Kiwi how much family means to us," Jordan explains. "It was such a hard decision for him and people always put him down about that but I know at the end of the day he put our family first and I'll always be proud of him for that."
Jordan has also had to battle through major adversity, suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in consecutive pre-season trials in 2011 and 2012, injuries he has only now sufficiently recovered from to be able to return to goalkicking practice.
"I wasn't there when he first did his knee but I went over just before the second time and watched his pre-season game against the Cowboys when he did it the second time," Jared recalls. "It was quite hard for me to watch.
"I went into the dressing rooms after he'd done it and he was just there crying... It was quite hard.
"He already knew that he'd done it again but he's just a strong-willed person so he always knew that he'd get through it. Whatever things get thrown his way he seems to overcome them and get through it and just seems to work even harder. It's a bit of an inspiration for me to look at that and see how he's matured, especially at such a young age."
Where they once slept in the small confines of the family car, the pair are now separated by more than 2,500 kilometres but communicate at least every second day, if not every day.
They cut their footballing teeth playing two-on-two against the Sopoaga brothers, Lima and Tupou, back in Wellington and "used to fight about anything and everything," says Jared.
"I think it was just our competitive nature, we'd compete for everything," he adds. "We'd have a running race down to the dairy. Anything and everything you could think of we used to compete about and I think that's what makes us both so competitive these days and strive to be the best we can be."
That Jordan is on course to finally play his first full season in the NRL he attributes largely to the inspiration provided by his brother who is two years his senior.
"I didn't want to do anything that he wasn't doing when I was younger," says Jordan, who turns 23 on January 28. "I'd follow him around like a bad smell so he would get sick of me and to this day he's still my idol.
"The things he's had to endure and people always putting him down, he's always stuck through it and got through everything. He's obviously a big idol in my life and someone I try to model my life around."
Playing five-eighth for the Broncos outside Ben Hunt would then seem the logical next step, and Jared has no doubt his little brother will make the position his own if given the opportunity.
"Playing outside Ben Hunt, Jord can just play his natural game," says Jared. "I know he's not a six but he's got the skill to be a six. It might take him a few games if he gets the opportunity to slot in there but I'm sure working with Ben Hunt will be great for him.
"[Ben] will be able to guide him along the way of what to do but I think for Jord it's just about getting involved with the game. Playing out on the wing it's quite hard, just watching and then taking hit-ups and taking high balls so hopefully if he gets the opportunity to play six he'll get more ball and run around the park."
Just as they did as kids.