Broncos rookie David Fifita has revealed how the discipline of catching a 4.57am train from Brisbane to Gold Coast league powerhouse Keebra Park High School for training gave him the application and dedication to make a success of his NRL career.
In round 16 the 18-year-old became the first player born in the 2000s to play in the Telstra Premiership and this Sunday he will line up in his first final against St George Illawarra.
From Year 10 to Year 12, Fifita - who still lives at home in the Ipswich suburb of Redbank Plains with his parents Gwen and Siaosi - would set the alarm for 4am, get a lift to Altandi train station with his mum and arrive at the Gold Coast where a maxicab would take him to the school’s 6.30am training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
"It all started for me when I went to school at Keebra Park. That school has been a big thing in my journey and got me ready to play first grade physically and mentally with the tough training we did down there,” Fifita told NRL.com
"I would travel all the way from my home at Redbank Plains to Southport where my school is based.
"Training days I’d get up at 4am catch that 4.57am train and that is where I think I got my dedication from. I’ve always enjoyed my training and loved playing footy since then."
Fifita's schoolboy coach, Glen Campbell, told NRL.com he was "never late once".
Non-training days Fifita would hop on the train from Goodna in Ipswich, travel into Brisbane and then catch a Gold Coast train for a daily four-hour round trip. Fifita also did that in Year 8 and Year 9 every school day.
"I checked it out and David didn’t miss a day of school for those two years," Campbell told NRL.com.
Fifita said the self-discipline of that train travel "is why I am here now".
"Looking back, I think 'how did I do that', but that is what gave me the drive to get where I am,” he said.
Fifita has Torres Strait Islander heritage on his mum's side of the family and his Tongan background is through his father. They remain an inspiration as does his late grandfather Walter Waria.
"My mum has always been there for me through the good times and the rough times, so I am doing it for her, family and my granddad who couldn't be here today," he said after the 48-16 win over Manly at Suncorp Stadium.
"I was real close to granddad. He has always been a Broncos supporter who came to the games. I never got to play in front of him here but I know he is watching.
"He would always come to my games through the juniors. I really miss him.
"He is giving me the strength on the field to get my name out there and represent my family from the Torres Strait and from Tonga.”
Fifita, who was named the Mal Meninga under 18 representative player of the year at the QRL’s awards night, started the season playing in the under 18 competition for Souths-Logan.
His rise from that arena to Intrust Super Cup to a first Telstra Premiership final has been part of his grand plan, although it has unfolded quicker than he expected.
"My goals were to make the under 18s [Queensland] team down in Melbourne, and I did that, then to play Q Cup. I did that eventually, and then to play NRL," he said.
"I didn't think I would get the opportunity this year but I grabbed it with two hands.
"If I look back to where I was at the beginning of the year I wouldn’t think I’d be here now. It has been about keeping grounded, keeping humble and training hard.
"The people around me give me confidence in what I do. I know that physically I am sweet but it is just my fitness and work around the ball that I needed to improve."
Don't miss out on seeing your team chase premiership glory. Make sure to get your tickets to week 1 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series