Joe Tomane of the Brumbies leaves Luke Holmes of the Rebels in his wake during the Round 8 clash against the Rebels. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
Money, fame and fortune – there was a time when Joseph Tomane’s career was about all the wrong things.
The schoolboy rugby star from Queensland made the switch to the NRL and played for ‘‘the wealth’’, not for the love of the game.
But less than 18 months ago when he appeared destined to spend his playing days in reserve grade, Tomane made a deal with God to try to turn it all around.
At first he had his doubts.
Struggling with injury and form for the Gold Coast Titans feeder team, Tomane could see his opportunity slipping away.
That’s when he rediscovered his Christian faith and ‘‘challenged’’ God to guide him out of ‘‘the lowest point of my career’’.
And after a stunning arrival in Canberra – which was capped off with a Wallabies call-up this week – Tomane says it’s his faith which revived his career.
‘‘There’s a Bible verse that says give 10 per cent of your fruits for tithing and offerings and God will truly bless you,’’ Tomane said.
‘‘So I challenged Him, I said ‘I’ll do what you want me to do if it pays off’ so that’s what I did. That’s exactly what He’s done, the next week things turned around and I was in the Titans team.
‘‘There was a point where I thought it was being taken away from me, I thought playing in Queensland Cup could be the pinnacle.
‘‘I’m so happy now, I don’t have the same worries that I used to, I’m living a freer life. I found faith ... when I started playing I was consumed by the world. I wanted money, the wealth and I wanted it only for myself, not for God.
‘‘Now I don’t play to glorify myself, it’s all about Him.’’
Tomane isn’t like most Super Rugby stars. He tries to avoid the spotlight, is humble and his beaming grin when he talks about his faith is proof of how dedicated he is.
Usually reluctant to talk about himself, Tomane jumped at a chance to explain his beliefs.
He goes to church every week. He prays before and after every match.
And while most people don’t see him do it, Tomane pauses and looks to the sky to thank God for the opportunity he has been given everytime he scores a try.
The reason why most people don’t see it is because: ‘‘I avoid the cameras because I don’t want people to think I’m doing it for show,’’ Tomane said.
‘‘Being Christian doesn’t make me perfect. I do it as a sign of respect for the blessed opportunity I have been given ... I’ve always prayed before and after games, but now it’s more heartfelt, there’s more meaning.’’
The rugby league convert has taken just 10 games to rise out of the ashes of his NRL career into his first Wallabies squad. And he puts it largely down to his Christian faith.
Every time Tomane gets paid, he puts 10 per cent of his wage in an envelope and gives it to his church.
It’s a stark contrast to the brash approach the talented teenager had when he was regarded as one of the best schoolboy rugby talents in Australia. Tomane was lured to Melbourne to join Craig Bellamy and NRL powerhouse the Storm.
He was brought up in a Christian family, but his belief waned when he broke into the NRL and it became about the money. When his career was at a crossroads, however, he turned to his beliefs for guidance.
He has nine tattoos. Most are a tribute to his Christian faith or Samoan heritage while the three stars behind his ear are for daughter Starsha.
His favourite tattoos are the cross on his left hand and his favourite Bible verse written across his stomach – Philippians 4:13 ‘‘I can do all this through Him who gives me strength’’.
Before every game Tomane draws a cross and writes his name and faith on his wrist with his six favourite Bible verses.
‘‘I lost my way with God when I went to Melbourne,’’ he said.
‘‘It was when I was at the lowest point of my career that I realised I needed a lifestyle change ... I wanted to gain my faith back. That’s why I love being at the Brumbies so much, I wanted to go somewhere that I could still have that faith.’’
Tomane’s Wallabies selection was a distant dream when he arrived in Canberra late last year.
In fact, he didn’t expect to be challenging for a Super Rugby starting spot until 2013, let alone be pushing his claims for a Test debut.
The realisation he’s made the remarkable rise is still sinking in and he admits it’s a ‘‘surreal’’ feeling.
His tough journey to the top makes him appreciate his achievements even more.
‘‘I appreciate a lot of things now more than I did in the past,’’ Tomane said. ‘‘I appreciate the talents God has blessed me with, the coaching staff he has surrounded me with.
‘‘There aren’t enough prayers or praise I could say for the things he has done for me. I just didn’t see this coming, I never thought in three months my life would be turned around in such a massive way ... this is unbelievable.''