“I have no sympathy for Manu Vatuvei” – Fauono Ken Laban
Rugby league commentator Fauono Ken Laban has condemned the actions of former league star Manu Vatuvei but says part of the blame lies with his management team.
Vatuvei was sentenced to three years and seven months earlier this week by Manukau District Court for importing methamphetamine.
“We have to find the people who let Manu down,” says Fauono Ken Laban.
“There are a host of things Manu could have done with his life after football. He could have been involved in mental health. He could have been involved as an ambassador for young players. He could have been at the forefront of even our vaccination in South Auckland for Pasifika.”
Fauono says questions need to be asked about who made money from Manu Vatuvei’s earnings during his rugby league career.
“Where were they when it really mattered. His so-called management team taking a percentage of his salary and he was making a lot of money at the Warriors. What do we do to hold them to account?
“If they knew he was involved in this kind of activity, what did they do to stop him? What did they do to ensure there was life for Manu after his football?
“These so-called player managers who are involved, if you’re going to manage the player, manage them. Don’t just take a percentage of his contract negotiation.”
Managing the ups and downs of rugby league
Fauono says the biggest challenge in the game of rugby league is dealing with the highs and lows of emotion surrounding the game, particularly when it comes to talented young players.
“We have seen suicide rates in Australia recently among players who were signed to clubs at 16 and 17 years old.
“They were the best players at high school level, and then they’re scouted, identified, placed in an elite system, alongside 50 or 60 like-minded kids.”
It takes “an exceptional player in an exceptional system” to succeed in professional sport, but Fauono says even that is subjective in itself.
“That’s the brutal reality for a lot of these kids. They all want to be Cooper Cronk. They all want to be Sonny Bill Williams. They all want to be Andrew Fifita.
“I think there are 35 in the elite first-year teams, but behind those 35 there are another 50 kids in the development program. All those 50 kids want to get into the 35s, well they won’t.”
Fauono says rugby league clubs need to work on educating their young players about what is happening on and off the pitch, as well as developing their maturity, both mentally and physically.
However, he doesn’t believe rugby league was responsible for Manu Vatuvei’s downfall.
“He would have been in an environment when he was first identified by the Warriors where there is zero tolerance and no place in the game or in sport for drugs.
“I think our game and our sport have been very responsible in those areas and the people involved in our game, we have to be a reflection of the community that supports us, so I’m disappointed with Manu Vatuvei. I think he has lucky he’s only three and a half.
“There are so many good things he could have done with his life and his profile in the game, but I hope he gets that opportunity after having had three and a half years to reflect in prison on the dilemma in which he is.”