Some rugby league players have been through very different experiences to get to where they are today.
For some, though, the path to professional sport is often a crazy one – and that rings true for Castleford Tigers forward Suaia Matagi.
Never one to take a backwards step, Matagi has become something of a firm favourite at the Jungle in his time at the club, running the ball in with vim and vigour and putting himself about in defence.
However, his time as a professional athlete may never have come about had he continued to follow a path that led him to a three-year prison stretch as a young man.
“I remember my environment and who we surround ourselves with and that inspired me to follow the path with gangs,” Matagi said on a live Instagram video.
“That’s what I wanted to be and I eventually got what was coming for me. I was sentenced to three years inside prison.
“One of the defining moments was realising I was living my whole life for the gangs. When I’m just sitting in the prison cell withn othing but four walls you start passing judgement, asking ‘where are my boys now?”
It was one particular family visit that turned Matagi’s life around.
“I was six months in and I left my young daughter at the time with my partner and they came and visited me.
“I remember my wife didn’t tell me at the time, she caught a bus and had nowhere to stay. It was new to me that I had a visit, I’m eight hours away from home.
“That was the first time in six months that I had seen them and when I found out and saw them I bawled out crying. I couldn’t believe what I had done to my family and I was paying for my actions.”
Beginning his NRL career at the New Zealand Warriors back in 2013, Matagi made over 100 NRL appearances before swapping Australia for the UK with the Huddersfield Giants.
After three seasons at the John Smith’s Stadium, Matagi moved on loan to Castleford in 2021 and moved permanently ahead of the 2022 Super League season.