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Family fuelling Fai's return to the football field

Opposition beware – George Fai has returned to rugby league with a new lease on life and is more motivated than ever to make it back to the top of the game.

The former Brisbane Broncos prop, who developed his game through the grades with Souths Logan Magpies, has signed on with Brisbane Tigers for the season after stepping away from the game for a few years, mostly for family reasons.

“(I) took time away to watch my kids grow,” Fai said.

“I know a lot of people are different, and some people when they have kids, it motivates them to go out and work harder, but for me, it was a different motivation, being there each and every day for my kids and especially for my partner, she had to raise three babies and that’s not easy.

“I wanted to be there every day, just knowing that I didn’t have to play away every weekend.

“I know in 2019 when I had my daughter, it was pretty tough week-in, week-out... the weeks that I played away, I really struggled, so I just wanted to be there pretty much just to see her grow through her first few years.

“Now that she’s a bit older and I know that my partner is able to look after all three (while I am away), I am okay with turning back to the game.”

This year, armed with a new mindset and determination, Fai said joining with the Tigers was driven largely by a desire to reunite with coach Jon Buchanan, who is in his second year with the Tigers and previously coached Fai at the Magpies.

“What really got me was the connections I had with JB in the past, if someone was going to get me back to playing my best footy and hopefully back playing NRL, if it was under any coach, it was going to be JB,” Fai said.

“He helped me stay where I was back in 2019, where I was still contracted to the Broncos and he really helped me in my game a lot with defence and running, and I knew if there was anyone that was going to get me back there it would be him.”

George Fai in Brisbane Broncos colours. Photo: NRL Images
George Fai in Brisbane Broncos colours. Photo: NRL Images

Fai, who has a goal to return to the NRL by playing well for the Tigers, said while he initially found pre-season hard – given he was also juggling working nights shifts – he drew inspiration from his team mates.

“I think the list goes on with the boys who have helped me at the club, but I think a person who has really inspired me is Lucky (Taavale),” Fai said.

“I feel like through the whole pre-season, when we first game back, he wasn’t in the best shape, but then just to see where he is now has motivated me to get fitter and hopefully catch him on the scales... I have got a few more kilos than him so hopefully if I can catch him, I’ll be good, but he’s probably someone who really inspires me to sort of bring out the best I can.

“(This year) I think my ultimate goal is to hopefully with the championship with the boys, I know that I have played against the Tigers for years and I don’t think I have seen a side stronger than this, not trying to judge the past players – I think everyone makes the club and those who played back then, but I think with the squad that we have here, we can definitely do something special and I know the championship is really on our mind.

“For my game, hopefully I can play the best I can and try to do my job week-in, week-out so hopefully just to cement a spot in top grade, because I know that’s going to be tough.

“We have got depth through the whole 30-man squad, so I have to perform each week just to stay there so I am hoping I can keep doing that and hopefully get signed by the end of the year by an NRL club.”

Rugby league has always been in the family for Fai and one game his is looking forward to in particular is in Round 2 when the Tigers take on the Magpies where he could potentially take on his brother Justin, who coincidentally, previously played with the Tigers.

George's brother Justin is signed with Souths Logan Magpies. Photo: Scott Davis / QRL
George's brother Justin is signed with Souths Logan Magpies. Photo: Scott Davis / QRL

“Hopefully we do end up playing each other... I think it is Round 2 that I see that we play Souths, but he is playing for Souths and I am hoping when the time comes around, that we do get the chance to run out against each other,” Fai said.

“I know it will be a battle and I know he is going better than when I last played him so pretty excited to see what we can do when we lock horns.”

The Tigers open their season against Tweed Seagulls.

Photo: George Fai during the pre-season trials. Photo: Mel Tabet / Brisbane Tigers

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