Just when Te Maire Martin appeared to have a mortgage on the feel-good story of 2022, along comes Fa’amanu Brown to share the limelight after scoring two tries for Wests Tigers in his first NRL match since 2019.
Like the brave Broncos fullback, Brown spent three years away from the NRL, battling a foot injury that threatened not only his career but his ability to even be able to run.
Like Martin, who has now chalked up five games for Brisbane since returning in round seven, Brown had to call on every ounce of resilience and self-belief he could muster to get another crack at the big time.
“It’s quite surreal, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I only moved over here [to the Tigers] two weeks ago from North Sydney Bears,” said Brown, after coming off the bench in the 36-22 win over the Bulldogs on Friday night.
Brown puts cherry on top for Wests Tigers
“My last game for the Bears was against the Bulldogs and I only played about 10 minutes off the bench, then I came over here and played a full game [for Wests] against Manly and went OK and here I am.”
To fully understand what Brown has endured to resurrect his NRL career, you need to wind the clock back to the middle of 2019 when he broke his foot while playing for the Bulldogs.
After debuting at Cronulla as a 19-year-old in 2014, Brown shifted to Canterbury in 2018 and had finally cracked the starting side in round 14, 2019 when disaster struck.
It just goes to show if you persist with something you can find your wayWests Tigers coach Michael Maguire
“There’s three bones in your body that have limited blood supply, one of those is the navicular bone in your foot, and that’s the one I broke,” he said.
“After my second surgery they said I wasn’t going to be able to run again and they wanted me to retire but I proved them wrong.
“I spoke to five different surgeons and my scans went to America and no one wanted to touch me and they wanted me to get a bone fusion so I started doing my own research.
“I found a guy who worked on a lot of AFL players who were 50-50 whether it would heal. I took that chance and came good.
“It took me 18 months to get my body right and then I got the chance to play in England with Featherstone Rovers when no one else wanted to pick me up due to my injuries.
“I played all 34 games [in Division 2] so I knew my foot was back to normal and I had proved to myself that I wanted to come back here and have a crack.
Brown burrows over
“I came back from England and did a pre-season with the Roosters but I had a lot of good players in front of me there and I wasn’t getting a lot of game time off the bench with the Bears.
“It’s quite hard to make it back into the NRL from England, especially playing Division 2. There was a time when I didn’t think I would make it back here so I’m just blessed.
“You don’t realise how good something is until it’s taken away from you. I was lucky to get my second chance and here I am trying to prove to myself that I can do it.”
One man who has full confidence the 27-year-old can revive his career is Tigers coach Michael Maguire, who had his faith repaid big time at Leichhardt Oval on Friday.
Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Bulldogs
Apart from his two crucial tries out of dummy half, Brown produced seven tackle breaks and two line breaks in his 29-minute cameo off the bench.
“What Nu has been through with his injuries, it just goes to show if you persist with something you can find your way,” Maguire said.
“I actually spoke to him two years ago about potentially coming to the club but he was unfortunately injured at the time, so it’s amazing how the circle comes back in our game and he’s out there scoring two tries.
“We know what he’s capable of and he’ll be very handy for us.
“It’s a great rugby league story."