Homesick Bulldog recharges in NZ
Homesick Canterbury second rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner made good use of the bye weekend, taking advantage of the extra time off granted by coach Des Hasler to visit his partner and family back home in New Zealand.
The mid-season recruit had never lived away from friends and family until his signing at Belmore two months ago saw him depart his native Auckland without so much as an apartment lined up.
The Otahuhu Leopards junior has impressed in his six games in blue and white so far – starting in his past three – but he says last weekend's break came at a good time for him personally.
"I'm feeling fresh having a few days off. I went home to see my family. It was good," Faitala-Mariner said.
"I got a bit homesick the last two months. It was good to see mum and dad and my partner and all that. A bit of a boost and ready to go again.
"It is my first time being away from family and being on my own but I guess the boys have been helping me out and making it a bit better and a bit easier for me to settle in."
Faitala-Mariner said the toughest part about leaving home was having close friends and family around to hang out with in his down time.
"Usually I would just go hang out with friends or the missus but I've had to find something new, new hobbies," he said.
But some support from his new mates at Belmore have helped him get through and the former Junior Kiwis rep said it was the New Zealanders in his new club that had been of particular help.
"They've been good. Some boys have been helping me out looking for apartments and units around the area. Everyone's been helpful," he said.
"Everyone's chipping in but if I was to name some boys, Sam Kas (Kasiano) has been really helpful. Greg Eastwood. I guess the Kiwi boys, they know how us Kiwi boys are with family and everything, leaving home, they went through what I'm going through right now so it's good to have their wisdom around."
It's not just off the field that the Bulldogs players have helped settle in; Faitala-Mariner says playing alongside the club's vaunted forward pack has made his job on the field easier too.
"With the help of the boys on the field and Des and the coaching staff it's made my job easier. Especially having guys like James Graham and [Aiden] Tolman on the field, leaders like that on the field makes me feel comfortable and confident to go out there and do my job," he said.
"It gives you the confidence and as a young fella and the new kid in the team it just makes it a lot easier on the field."