Fa’alogo to lift Islander youth in Ipswich

Joel Gould | 27th Jan 2016 6:00 AM

Thank you to the Queensland Times for this great article.

MORE than a footy club.

When it comes to the Ipswich Jets, that is certainly the case. No club does more off the field than the Jets.

The signing of former NRL star and 2008 World Cup winner David Fa’alogo (pictured) for the 2016 season will be a massive boost on the field.

But off it the 35-year-old forward will become a leader of the Heart Of Love, Learning and Achievement (HOLLA) network, a social cohesion program the Jets co-ordinate with Islander people in Ipswich and Logan.

It is not just within the city’s boundaries that the Jets off-field work is bearing fruit.

Jets chairman Steve Johnson was informed last year about young Logan people who were sniffing petrol and glue and getting involved in anti-social activities. He went to work, co-opting the assistance of former NRL players to address the issues.

“So a leading member of the Samoan community Jerry Lale, myself and Preston Campbell and Clinton Toopi, together with some other people, set up HOLLA,” he said.

“It is designed to use rugby league as a driver to get better outcomes for young people. The issues in Logan were that young people were sniffing and getting around upsetting people.

“So Police Liaison Officer Leki Cameron in Logan helped us set up a network that involved the Koha Shed, a group of Maori people who help other Maoris.”

A meeting was set up at Logan PCYC last year with the Maori Wardens, elders and leading members of the various Islander communities and Queensland Police Service, Youth Justice and Community Housing.

“We had a discussion on what we can do about this and it is basically an assist group for young people who have lost their way,” Johnson said.

“The Police Commissioner Ian Stewart is also right behind it.”

Samoan captain Frank Pritchard, Tongan captain Sika Manu and American Samoa’s Joseph Paulo, also the former USA Tomahawks captain, became ambassadors of the HOLLA program.

Prichard has gone to Super League this season but Johnson said current NRL stars of Islander heritage who visit Brisbane for games against the Broncos will be co-opted to assist in 2016.

The players will be utilised to encourage youth to make better life choices and get involved in sporting activities.

“We are going to start up the same thing we do in Logan around Goodna and with David Fa’alogo being a former Test player for Samoa and New Zealand he will be an ideal role model for the young people,” he said.

“He will be able to encourage them to reconnect with their culture and make better life choices. Imagine being a Samoan lad and being taught the Siva Tau, the Samoan version of the haka, by a Samoan test great.

“David wants to get involved with the community and what better way than helping young Islander boys.”

Fa’alogo played 198 NRL games for the Rabbitohs and Knights and 57 matches for Huddersfield in a career which also saw him play 19 Tests for New Zealand and Samoa.

He is set to move to Ipswich in the next month and settle in the city with his family.

Johnson said Fa’alogo was moving to the Jets for all the right reasons.

“David approaching us is a validation of the work the Walker brothers are doing and the work the Jets are doing in the community.

“He’s not coming for money and age is not a barrier. In 2014 he was international player of the year for Samoa in a side that was glittering with stars.”