Childhood mates driving Suli's NRL return
Moses Suli is on time and back in the top grade thanks to some of his oldest football connections at his newest NRL club.
Three months after being sacked by the Bulldogs for ill-discipline, and only a month after the Tigers did likewise, Suli returned to first grade in Manly's desperate 22-20 loss to the Roosters on Sunday.
When once Suli overslept in the car park while his Tigers teammates were training, Sea Eagles officials say he hasn't been late for a single session after joining their ranks in early March, coach Trent Barrett telling NRL.com "he hasn't missed a beat since being here."
Driving the talented teen is a desire to get back to where he belongs, fulfilling the potential that netted a lucrative $1.3 million, three-year Tigers deal less than 18 months ago.
Literally driving him the 90-odd minutes each way from his native Fairfield to Narrabeen, and getting Suli there with time to spare, are fellow south-west locals Taniela Paseka and Addin Fonua-Blake, with young Manly hooker Manase Fainu often along for the ride as well.
"We look after Moses and get him here on time," Paseka grins.
"He's changed heaps since joining Manly, he's back to where he should be.
"There's a few of us coming across most days. Addin Fonua-Blake lives down in Greystanes which is right nearby and Moses is just around the corner from me so we take it in turns to drive over and drive back home.
"It's a rough commute but there's other boys doing the same. Jono Wright comes down from the Central Coast for training and games so we can't complain. We've got it easy in comparison."
Paseka has known Suli since their early junior footy days, long before they landed in the same Tigers SG Ball and under 20 systems.
It's why when his own first grade commitments wrapped up last year, Suli spent the finals series supporting seven of his closest mates as Manly made their fairy tale run to the under 20 premiership. An injured Paseka was right there with him in the unofficial cheer squad.
Standing at two metres and 120 kilos before his own 20th birthday, Paseka has also known the hype that followed Suli's movements at Concord and then his rapid fall from there to Belmore, to a few weeks in rugby league purgatory.
Suli has a ways to go on a number of fronts at Manly. He has dropped a large chunk of the 15 extra kilos he put on over summer, but could still drop a few more.
Last week he was upgraded from his development deal to the club's full-time squad for the rest of 2018. But the Sea Eagles want to see Suli maintain the rage before buying in with a contract extension.
Still, you take your wins when you get them. Manly haven't had one in five starts and their roster woes have seen the club elevate Suli and Paseka into their top 17 when they otherwise probably wouldn't.
But Paseka is proud as punch to see his good mate back in first grade as a changed man, playing NRL in front of his family on a sunny Sunday afternoon once more.
"He played a few games of 20s with me and he went through to first grade obviously, but we've known each other and played against each other all the way through our young days with school and rep footy," Paseka told NRL.com.
"I've known him since we were really young but ever since he's come back he's a different player, the change has been massive. He's training hard, he hasn't missed a session and he's always on time.
"He's doing really good now and the improvement in him shows. The boys are happy with him and Baz [Barrett] is happy with him, and his skill is pretty unbelievable when he gets everything right."