I am truly blessed! I have two amazing children named Monica and Charlie who attend St John’s in Maitland, as well as my lovely wife Averil, who now teaches at St Peter’s, Maitland. My beautiful daughter Monica Felice shares her name with my wonderful mother. Averil and I are childhood sweethearts, because we first met as students together in Year 11 at St Mary’s, Maitland. I always wanted to be a father who was visible and active in the lives of my children. I clearly remember the moment when I said to myself, I cannot keep coaching Rugby League, I have a responsibility here, I need to be supporting my wife to ensure our children have the best start in life.
I have had very dark times. I have fought my way back from eleven major operations I endured in my Rugby League career, but my darkest time was at 17 years of age, while attending St Mary’s, Maitland. It was here that I lost both my parents in a car accident, which absolutely shattered me! I would not wish this feeling on anyone, and the fact that my parents left that day still haunts me at times, especially being a parent to my own children. In saying this, it is my number one motivator, to be the best father I can be. It is my prerogative that my children are brought up the same way my mother and father raised me. This means a relationship guided by endless love and faithfulness. My life as a child was great, full of fun, love, support and family. I am the youngest of nine children, and if it was not for my family and friends, I would not be in the position I find myself today.
I sometimes look back at my life and wonder! I did not want to be a teacher when I was growing up, I only wanted to play Rugby League! I wanted to be just like my two brothers and my Dad, Peter, who played through the glory years of the 1950s with the Maitland Pumpkin Pickers. Prior to teaching, I began my Rugby League career as a Junior Knights player before joining the Hunter Mariners. I then enjoyed playing first grade at the North Queensland Cowboys and the Northern Eagles. Following this, I captained/coached the Maitland 1st grade team where I achieved the player’s player award across the entire competition. I have also recently been listed in the 40 best players for the Maitland Pumpkin Pickers. For my final playing season, I played at West Newcastle where I received the Player of the Year award, Best Forward and Man of the Match in the winning Grand Final team. Looking back, I really did enjoy my Rugby League career, and now I have the opportunity to share my little boy Charlie’s journey. He plays in the Under 9s East Maitland Griffins team and absolutely loves it. Mainly, I want him to be happy and enjoy himself, not feel he has to play to make me happy. I would support him no matter what he did.
When I finished playing in the NRL, I needed to decide what to do next. I gravitated towards teaching because I wanted that sense of fun, love, support and family back in my life. It had left me a little through dealing with the pressures of extremely competitive professional sport. For me, being a school student was fun! I enjoyed every minute ‒ even though I was very cheeky and at times found myself in a little trouble ‒ school life was where I belonged. So I decided to attend Newcastle University where I completed the 18-month teaching course, because I had a trade as a chippy under my belt. I worked hard to achieve this while I was playing Rugby League.
There have been some major highs for me, such as my wife Averil and my children Moni and Charl, and playing in the NRL, but there have been some real lows. Especially as I get older I find myself seeing greater relevance in the Catholic community and seeking guidance there. I feel the need to surround myself with fun (being with the students), nurturing love, and support (through my friends and colleagues) and to bring that sense of family into my school life.
Now you understand how I am truly blessed!