By Rachael Price
St George Illawarra Dragons prop Rulon Nutira feels blessed to have the opportunity to show the Red V what he’s made of as he trains to secure a contract at the Dragons.
The Hornby Panthers junior played at the Parramatta Eels for four seasons from the age of sixteen before moving to the Melbourne Storm where he left at twenty believing his dreams of playing NRL were over.
The 24-year-old returned to Australia this year and played for the Gundagai Tigers, working in the abattoir to support his young family before he had the chance to train with the Red-and-Whites.
“I was playing footy with the Melbourne Storm in 2010, but I gave up and went back home and started living life there,” said Nutira.
“I had a young family at home so I had to learn to be a father and a good partner to my missus, so I stayed in Christchurch, New Zealand for three years.
“I finally decided to have a go at getting back into footy this year and had a chance out in the bush for the Gundagai Tigers.
“My manager said playing for that team was the best choice I could make and told me to dig it in and have a real go at it.
“I have faith in him and I supported what he said, so we went to the bush and played my heart out.
“Gundagai are an amazing club, they set us up and we moved straight into a house and I walked straight into a job at the abattoir.
“Packing meat in the chillers in the boning room is quite a change of scenery from playing footy for most of my life.
“A day at the abattoir would be me getting to work at a bout 5:30 in the morning to be straight on the chain at 6.00am and we did about 2,350 sheep a day.
“I love training compared to the abattoir, I could play footy forever, I love training, I love being around the boys and I just love football; this is the dream.
“Bush footy is a pretty tough game, there are a lot of tough footballers out there and ex-NRL players; I found it a great experience, I had good people around me and I tried my hardest.
“When I was sixteen I was playing for Parramatta for four seasons there and then left for New Zealand as a twenty-year-old after playing a season with Melbourne.
“When I arrived back home I started living every day without football, I got a job as a scaffolder and looked after my missus and twins; I wanted them to be closer to their father.
“I gave up on footy and just wanted to forget about it when I got back home, I thought my chance had come and gone and the dream was over; I never thought I’d ever get another chance.
“My twins are seven now and a young son who’s two; my family has come over here to Australia to support me.
“I come from a big family community who love you for who you are, whether you succeed or not so I don’t feel like there’s a lot of pressure for me to make it in the NRL.
“I met with Mary and he said he’d give me a chance with the Dragons; I’m training for a contract but I’m glad to have this opportunity.
“I believe I’m ready for footy, I can do it; I have so much more life experience than I did when I left Australia.
“I was in the footy system for five years from a young age so I know what it takes to be at this level and I think I’m a much better player than I was at twenty.”