How Gympie’s Tino went from farm boy to NRL Titan

RUGBY LEAGUE: It’s hard to believe Tino Fa’asuamaleaui made his NRL debut as recently as round 16 last year.

The 20-year-old shows the maturity of a player with considerably more first grade experience, both on and off the field.

With a surname that’s as difficult to tackle as his 197cm frame, Tino impressed during his five NRL matches in 2019 and earned selection for the Junior Kangaroos squad, adding to a representative resume which includes a number of Origin games for Queensland Under 16s, Under 18s and Under 20s teams.

Tino Fa’asuamaleaui in action against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in March.
Tino Fa’asuamaleaui in action against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in March.

While he was born in Orange, NSW, Tino grew up in the rural Queensland town of Widgee and at age 12 he was already part of the Brisbane Broncos development program, dreaming of one day playing on the big stage.

“I wasn’t a very big kid until I had a growth spurt when I was 14, but way before I was on any NRL club’s radar I knew I wanted to play professional rugby league,” he told Melbourne Storm.

“I supported the Broncos, I loved them growing up. I always watched State of Origin in the lounge room with my younger brother, my sister and my mum and dad and I’ve always been a passionate Maroons fan.

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“I loved watching Greg Inglis and Billy Slater and I try to play the way Gorden Tallis played, with aggression and 100 per cent effort.”

In late 2017 while playing for the Sunshine Coast Falcons Under 18s side, Tino caught the eye of Storm recruitment manager Paul Bunn.

He packed up his life in the Sunshine State and moved halfway across the country to pursue a development opportunity with the Melbourne Storm.

“The biggest lesson for me since being part of the Storm system has definitely been the value of hard work,” he said.

Maroons legends Greg Inglis and Billy Slater were two players Tino Fa’asuamaleaui idolised growing up.
Maroons legends Greg Inglis and Billy Slater were two players Tino Fa’asuamaleaui idolised growing up.

“In everything we do at this club, every player and coach puts in their best effort.

“That’s something that translates away from the footy field too. Hard work is rewarded.”

When asked about his biggest inspiration at the club, Tino is quick to name co-vice captain Jesse Bromwich.

“I look up to Jesse,” he said.

“He’s a great leader and he always helps us younger boys out, on and off the field.

“Away from footy, my family inspires me the most. I just want to put a smile on their faces.”

With a young family of his own to consider, Tino will depart the club at the end of 2020 to pursue an opportunity closer to home with the Gold Coast Titans.

“I’m going to miss everything about Melbourne – I love it here, there’s always something to do,” he said.

PROMISING young Melbourne Storm forward Tino Fa’asuamaleaui playing for Easts Tigers in 2018.
PROMISING young Melbourne Storm forward Tino Fa’asuamaleaui playing for Easts Tigers in 2018.

“I’m close with all the boys in the squad and they are like a second family and I’m definitely going to miss the food here too.

“Having said that, I’m not thinking too far ahead at this point and I’m focused on performing for Melbourne this year.

“My goals for 2020 were just to get through the year healthy and hopefully secure a spot in the Storm 17.”

Tino had cemented his place in the starting line-up this year, named on the interchange bench in the opening two rounds of the season and averaging 30 minutes on the field.

Since the Telstra Premiership was suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic he has been based at home in Queensland.

Tino is ready for the season to start againt and has been training at the local fields in Gympie to keep his fitness up.
Tino is ready for the season to start againt and has been training at the local fields in Gympie to keep his fitness up.

“I’m back home in Gympie and I haven’t been doing too much,” he said.

“I’ve been playing PS4 with some of the boys, going out to our farm, doing some work around the place and just spending good time with my family.

“I’ve been doing some training down at our local rugby league fields with my younger brother and just throwing some old school tin around in the shed.

“I’m making sure I’m ready when the season starts up again.”