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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Faith keeps Tanna’s footy dreams alive

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Tanna Featherstone playing for the Cronulla Sharks 2024 Under 19s SG Ball squad. Photo: Supplied
Tanna Featherstone playing for the Cronulla Sharks 2024 Under 19s SG Ball squad. Photo: Supplied

Tanna Featherstone has a small window between work and training to squeeze in a quick meal, swapping steel-capped boots for footy ones on his way back out the door.

The teenage carpenter by day and semi-professional rugby league player by night is on a mission to make the best of his future.

Already a star in the Under 19’s SG Ball squad with the Cronulla Sharks, which sees him training up to five nights a week, the graduate of St John Bosco College in Engadine is also ahead of the game off the field thanks to the vocational education and training (VET) pathway from Sydney Catholic Schools.

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Just five months after finishing school Tanna, 18, is already a year into his Certificate III in Carpentry and two years into his apprenticeship.

“The best part was starting early through school. Without it, I would only now be a first-year apprentice.” he said.

“I loved it because I still got to be at school with all my mates and have a great time while still getting my HSC Certificate.”

Tanna and his grandparents. Photo: Supplied

While reaching the NRL might be Tanna’s biggest dream, this winger or centre is keeping his feet on the ground and his options open.

“I’m not one to do something half-heartedly. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, but I also know the chances of playing at that level can be quite low.”

Statistics show less than two per cent of players reach the NRL according to the Sharks’ male wellbeing pathway coordinator, Renee Tatana.

“Talent only takes you so far,” she told The Catholic Weekly.

“Then it also becomes about commitment, attitude and effort. That can make the difference between making it to the top or not.

“Here, you can be an athlete as a career and that’s dream A on the field, but you also need a dream A off the field too. What do you want to be? Because this may not be everything. NRL isn’t forever.”

Renee’s role is part of the club’s broader scheme to help young players pursue viable career options outside of football.

“The most important thing is getting to know our people first. Our mantra is to coach the person, then the athlete and player.

“So, with Tanna, who is such a great young man, the things he likes to do off the field are really important too.”

For Tanna, that means working towards earning his builder’s licence.

“I want to eventually start my own business in building, that’s my dream A off the field,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong. You might make some good money if you make it to the NRL, but you’re going to need something to do for the rest of your life. If I have my life set up after footy, or if it doesn’t work out, I’ve got this to go onto.

“Some kids that play might not be working and are just focused on the training and footy, that’s their job. It’s my job too, but I really want to give my all to all the things I’m doing.”

So the future is bright and it all starts now for Tanna.

Tanna receiving school-based apprentice of the year award in carpentry 2023. Photo: Supplied.

He’s up at 5.30am on Mondays and Tuesdays prepping breakfast and lunch before work and is at Cronulla’s academy by 6pm for training. He’s back home around 8pm.

Wednesday’s a day off from training, and Tanna will often pop down to his local servo to grab bags of ice for a makeshift ice bath.

“Recovery is so important, especially with 12-hour physical days.”

Thursday is TAFE and Friday is back on the tools before a big game over the weekend.

Injuries and setbacks at the start of the season mean some days come tougher than others, but Tanna’s positive attitude and eyes on his two end goals keep him motivated.

“The mental side is just about getting up and into the grind of things each and every day.

“My faith has a part in that motivation as well. I know everything’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to.

“God has a plan for that, so I just need to hold up my end of the bargain and stick to working hard, being a good person and doing right by the community. I trust in that.”

Alongside his Catholic roots, family has been instrumental to how far Tanna’s already come in both pursuits.

“After training, mum would always have food ready for me. When I couldn’t drive, my parents would drive me to training and games,” he said.

“That’s a big part of their life too that’s taken out just for me to follow what my dreams are. It’s a massive thanks to them for everything they’ve done.

“They’ve always shown me the right path and said if you want anything in life you’ve got to work hard for it. Nothing’s going to be given to you. The reason I am where I am today is definitely my parents.”

When he is afforded some time off, Tanna finds solace catching waves or even volunteering where possible through his club’s charitable foundation, Sharks Have Heart.

But it’s on the field where he’s the happiest.

Tanna preparing for a game. Photo: Supplied.

“Tanna’s always really grateful to be there,” pathway coordinator Renee said.

“It can be tough when you’re competing for a position in a season that only offers around nine-weeks of playing, but he turns up [every day] like it’s the first day he’s ever come to training.

No matter how he’s feeling, he turns up ready and with a great attitude. He’s optimistic and will always see things with the glass-half-full mentality.

“Everyone’s unique, there’s all different backgrounds and pasts. We want to understand also where they’ve come from and what’s important to them.

“The successes Tanna has off the field can just as much be celebrated as winning a football match.”

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