Parramatta Eels NYC player Tyrell Fuimaono is a graduate of the NRL Indigenous School to Work program.

Indigenous roots drive Fuimaono to succeed

Parramatta Eels NYC player Tyrell Fuimaono embodies all that the game wishes to celebrate during the Indigenous Round.

A graduate of the NRL Indigenous School to Work program he combines his studies at the University of Western Sydney with similar standards of excellence on the field having gained selection for both the Junior Kangaroos and the victorious NSW U/20s State of Origin team.

A proud Wiradjuri man, Fuimaono has grown up in the western suburbs of Sydney but has maintained connections with his mother's family from Cowra.

Although proud of his father's Samoan heritage, he has always strongly identified with his Aboriginality and was a product of the NSW Indigenous Rugby League program conducted by Steve 'Bear' Hall.

In his senior years at school Fuimaono was appreciative of the mentoring and support provided by Belinda Solomon through the School to Work program funded by the NRL All Stars game with the support of the Australian Government.

"I had already decided my career path but Belinda made me fully aware of the opportunities on offer and helped organise interviews as I completed my HSC," Fuimaono said.

"The opportunity to hang out with other Aboriginal kids with similar dreams also helped me maintain my determination to succeed."

As part of the program Fuimaono made contact with Dean Feeney who now works at Parramatta as the Club Career Coach.

"Dean has been enormous help to me and ensures I maintain a balance between football and my studies," he said.

"He has also helped me link up with the Badanami Centre for Indigenous Education at UWS who have been great.

"It's been tough maintaining a full study load with training and the support and resources provided by Badanami has been a big help and has also allowed me to mix with other Indigenous students," Fuimaono continued.

Something is obviously working for Fuimaono as he in maintaining Distinction and Credit grades in his Bachelor of Business and Commerce specialising in Property Development.

Fuimaono also had the opportunity to mix with NRL Indigenous greats in Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis when he attended the NRL Indigenous Leadership Camp at the invitation of Dean Widders.

"It was an awesome experience," he said. 

"Learning more about my culture and being able to share experiences with the other players gave me extra motivation to succeed.

"Being part of the development of the War Cry with the team made me proud of who I am, and I thought that it would be great to have the opportunity to perform it as a member of the All Stars one day.

"My mum would be rapt!" 

In the meantime Fuimaono has been developing a reputation for excellence on the field as well.

"It's been a tough year for Parra but we are starting to come good at the right end of the season and still have ambitions to make the finals.

"Because we were struggling it came as a surprise when I was selected in the Junior Kangaroos and for me it was a massive achievement.

"It is a huge honour to be selected for your country at any level," he said.

Fuimaono knows he is yet to achieve his main goal in the game and that is to gain selection at the NRL level and become a consistent performer at the elite level.

At the same time he is setting a foundation for his life beyond football with his UWS studies.

He modestly does not see himself as a role model but hopes he is setting an example for other Indigenous youth to follow.

"I would like to be seen as an honest person who leads not by speaking but by doing," Fuimaono concluded.

His actions to date certainly suggest he is an Indigenous leader of the future wherever his career takes him.