Moses Suli’s journey has not been simple. (Mark Evans)
Moses Suli’s journey has not been simple. (Mark Evans)

Tragic story behind Suli’s stumble

MOSES Suli was in his mid-teens when he found his father dead on the garage floor.

The youngest of five boys with a young sister who grew up in Fairfield, Suli arrived home alone when he discovered his father had suffered a heart attack during a weights workout.

Suli tried desperately to revive him but is said to still suffer personal guilt for not being able to do more.

It sounds completely heartless to tell this story a day after the richest teenager in NRL history was sensationally sacked from his second club in just 27 days.

Just as it sounds callous to reveal that one of his brother's was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year as the then 18-year-old was struggling to come to terms with his rapid rise in the NRL.

And that during his final two years at Westfield Sports High, Suli never once played footy with the kids at school because he had stress fractures in his back followed by a serious syndesmosis ankle injury.

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Moses Suli’s journey has not been simple. (Mark Evans)
Moses Suli’s journey has not been simple. (Mark Evans)

It limited his playing time to two under 20 Holden Cup appearances before he was signed on a lucrative $1.3 million contract over three years.

People ask: how could a kid with the world at his feet squander such a wonderful opportunity?

"What people don't understand is that there is a lot of good about this kid," a friend close to Suli during his teenage years told The Daily Telegraph, opening up to put some balance and perspective to what has been a vicious fallout.

There is no doubting the teenager’s talent. (Gregg Porteous)
There is no doubting the teenager’s talent. (Gregg Porteous)

"I think to myself, bloody hell, if half of you had to go through the same shit as this kid has you might think differently.

"I'm not saying he doesn't have some issues he has to deal with. And he has to be the one who admits to that.

"But all I am seeing at the moment from the outside is that there are a lot of people with opinions who don't know the true story.

"Moses' mum was left to bring up five boys and a daughter. You can imagine what it was like for them.

"So yeah, the story is never told. But there is always an underlying issue."

Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary knows what Suli has been through. (Justin Brierty)
Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary knows what Suli has been through. (Justin Brierty)

Canterbury chairman Lynne Anderson could not be contacted but Ivan Cleary conceded at Thursday's Wests Tigers' season launch his club could not have done more to help Suli deal with his problems: "No, I don't feel sorry for him."

While that might sound tough, anyone who knows Cleary as an NRL coach and as a father understands that he would have done everything in his power to find a solution.

There just wasn't a solution at this point in time.

Respected NRL wellbeing and education manager Paul Heponstall added that while it was understandable to feel sympathy for Suli: "Ivan is probably right.

"Sometimes you learn more from pain, don't you?

"As a dad, you hate to see your kids feel pain. But you know they have to feel some pain to learn.

"I have a young fella next to me in the car, he is in a wheelchair. And I am thinking, he lives resilience every single day."

 

Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary knows what Suli has been through. (Justin Brierty)
Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary knows what Suli has been through. (Justin Brierty)

 

And there is the fame and fortune. While some can handle it, most don't.

"Every case is so individual and it is very hard to try and come up with a blanket solution for everything," Heponstall said.

"All I know with my wellbeing hat on is very few young kids play first grade without some repercussions later on.

"When you get things too early I don't think there is an appreciation as much of having to have worked for it."

Suli met with his manager Mario Tartak on Thursday and said he still wanted to play rugby league. The question will be when he is ready.

"I agree, he has to show someone that he wants it bad enough for those people to be able to help him," his friend said.

"But right now he needs to be treated as a 19-year-old. Not as a superstar.

"That's what people need to understand."