Sunia Turuva was eating dinner with his family, when a spark caught his eye. Big, searing flames had engulfed his lounge room in a matter of seconds.
The Penrith Panthers junior acted fast, dragging his mother and four brothers to safety outside of their Glendenning home.
By the time firefighters arrived, the Turuva’s house had burned to the ground — so too, had all their possessions.
“I just saw a bit of our furniture light up, we just had to get everyone straight out of the house,” said Turuva, who is the first cousin of Panthers hooker Api Koroisau.
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Jakob Arthur, Samuel Loizou, Sunia Turuva, Sean Russell, and Bailey Nouredine from Patrician Brothers Blacktown. Picture: Justin LloydSource:News Corp Australia
“It was too late, we just had to get out. Now we’re (living) at my Grandma’s house down the road, she lives in the same suburb.”
But, despite the devastating fire, Turuva never stopped turning up for his teammates.
“It happened on a Saturday, and I had a game on Sunday for my junior league team at St Marys,” Turuva said. “My parents told me to go play, to take my mind off things, so I played the next day.”
Days later, he was back at school. Weeks later, he scored an electric try for Patrician Brothers Blacktown in the NRL Schoolboy Cup.
The fullback said he was thankful for the support from his family, friends, high school and the Panthers — the club shared a GoFundMe link set up to help the Turuva family.
“The boys have been helping, I’ve had messages from people, few of the first grade boys have helped too, with donations,” Turuva said.
Ahead of their Schoolboy Cup quarter-final against St Gregory’s College today, Patrician Brothers Blacktown coach Noah Mears praised Turuva for his resilience this year.
Jakob Arthur in action for Patrician Brothers Blacktown. Picture: Jonathan NgSource:News Corp Australia
“He’s one of the greatest kids anyone will ever coach, to be quite honest,” Mears said.
“The biggest thing about him is his energy, he’s a ball of energy, he constantly brings the energy to the team. It’s been a big help throughout this year’s competition, with not the uncertainty, but he’s been the driving force at training sessions.
“His resilience has shone through this year, with tragedy that happened to their family, they were very lucky in that, but he turned up to school a couple of days later and he played straight away, he didn’t miss a beat.”
Mears, who has also coached Turuva in the Panthers’ junior representative sides — said the 18-year-old’s attitude will take him far in rugby league.
“I’ve seen Sunia come through there, the things he does at training just his effort is the biggest thing, it’s consistent he’s super fit, energetic and his communication is just next level” Mears said.
Turuva said he can’t wait to line up alongside his teammates in Windsor today.
“We found out on the morning of our graduation day, our coach Mr Meers he let us know that the Cup was back … the boys are keen, we’re ripping into training,” Turuva said.
“I think we can (win), especially losing the grand final last year against Westfields, heaps of us played in that grand final, so the boys have the drive.”
St Greg’s captain Cruise Tweedie is determined to take down Patrician Brothers Blacktown Picture: Christian GillesSource:News Limited
HE’S NO GOOSE: CRUISE AIMS TO BE SCHOOLBOY TOP GUN
By Jocelyn Airth
Cruise Tweedie has the need — the need for speed.
For months, the lock from St Gregory’s College has been itching to play schoolboy footy with his best mates.
The day has finally arrived, and Tweedie plans to bring a bit of LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell X-factor.
“My brother’s name is Maverick, so Dad obviously loves Top Gun,” Tweedie said.
“We’re lucky they didn’t call us Goose.”
Three weeks after graduating, Tweedie returned to St Greg’s to prepare for its sudden-death quarter-final against Patrician Brothers Blacktown.
And having played SG Ball for the Penrith Panthers, Tweedie is expecting the contest to be tough.
“They’re a physical, mobile team who like to dominate the ruck and set the pace of the game,” Tweedie said.
St Gregory’s team with coach Michael Bullock ahead of the clash with Patrician Brothers Blacktown Picture: Christian GillesSource:News Limited
“But I know some of them pretty well. Sunia Turuva, he‘s an absolute gun. We will be looking to shut him down.
“They’ve got big forwards in Jai Wynbergen Titoko and John Sagaga. So we will try to stop their second-phase play because they’re pretty good with the offload.”
Most of the kids who play for St Greg’s are boarders who hail from across NSW.
Many were working on farms from Temora and Tumut, to Binda and Cootamundra, when head coach Michael Bullock told them that the Cup was back on.
“Most of our boys went back home and to work on their family farms, whether it was sheep shearing, fencing. Some even started apprenticeships back home that they’ll return to after the HSC,” Bullock said.
“They’ve made a big effort to come back early for training and to get ready for the game.
”They are stoked to play and to test themselves against Blacktown.”
However, the school’s fullback Liam Fitzsimmons and five-eighth Joe Ward were unable to return for Thursday’s clash because they had just begun apprenticeships.
Tweedie said the side was determined to win for their mates who couldn’t play.
“One hundred per cent,” he said. “They’re unable to be with us. It’ll be difficult, as they’re two key players for us. There are no individuals, it’s a team and we play for each other.
“We’re treating this like the royal rumble. Thirty-four blokes going head-to-head. We’re excited for it.”
Originally published asRising stars on display in return of NRL Schoolboy Cup
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