Tyrell Fuimaono’s mother Michelle sold her jewellery so she and his sister Taliah could fly to Perth to support him in a schoolboy match so there was no way the Dragons forward was going to let her miss watching the siblings play in next week’s All Stars double-header in Townsville.
Tyrell will line-up for his second appearance with the Indigenous team in next Saturday night at CQB Stadium, while Taliah will make her All Stars debut against the Maori women’s team after overcoming a horror run with injuries.
“When I saw her named at No.6 I nearly teared up,” Fuimaono said. “I was so happy for her.
“For her to finally get a break, and to be there and share the experience with her is something we'll both hold dearly forever, the fact that we did it together.”
With Michelle and her mother, Jann, cheering from the grandstands it is set to be an emotional night for the family.
“I am thankful to my mum because she did everything to support me,” Tyrell said. “Once for school footy, we played in Perth and my mum hocked some of her jewellery just so she could come and watch me play.
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“Mum was a single parent and she didn’t have much money so she hocked her jewellery so she and my sister could fly over.”
While he knows he can never repay her for the sacrifices she made for his career, Fuimaono has contributed to the cost of flights for his mum and grandmother to Townsville to watch him and Taliah play in the All Stars fixture.
Fuimaono was 15 when he represented NSW Combined Catholic Colleges at the national schoolboy championships in Perth and Taliah, who is now 21, went wherever he played before forging a sporting career of her own.
However, injuries have set her back and Taliah missed the inaugural season of the Tarsha Gale Cup under 18s competition in 2017 due to a shoulder injury and the ruptured her ACL the following year after just matches for Mounties in the NSWRL Harvey Norman Premiership.
A breakout season in 2019 was ended by another shoulder injury that required a full reconstruction and more time on the sidelines.
“I have just done my first pre-season and I’m really looking forward to playing in the All Stars match,” Taliah said.
“One of the main things I am looking forward to is learning more about my Indigenous culture. I didn’t really know we were Indigenous until Tyrell got asked to play at the [Koori] Knockout.
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“Mum and that knew that Pops was [Indigenous], but he really kept it to himself. He doesn’t express much emotion and he doesn’t talk about his family. He had a pretty tough upbringing so we didn’t really know anything.”
Tyrell and Taliah’s grandfather Charlie Felstead is Waradjuri man from western NSW but they were born and raised in Penrith.
“I spent a fair bit of time in the bush with my grandfather growing up and every break I get I try to get out there with him,” said Faimaono, who was working on an M4 road crew and training on his own before being signed by St George Illawarra at the start of last season.
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“There are a lot of things I don’t know about our culture but I love learning about it and the week leading up to the All Stars game is very culturally orientated, bringing in elders and people to teach you about dance.
“It is a chance for our people to show the world about our culture and I can't wait to get into camp.”
He is also looking forward to playing on the same stage as Taliah for the first time and doing their mother proud.
“My mum is a champion for what she has done for us and I could never thank her enough,” Faimaono said.
“Without her contribution and sacrifice neither of us would be where we are today and I know she is definitely proud but I couldn’t be any more appreciative or grateful for what she has done for us.”
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