Manly Sea Eagles and New Zealand Kiwis rugby league star Martin Taupau is in Samoa for the first time in 13 years.
The 28-year-old forward grew up in Auckland and Sydney, but is proudly Samoan by descent, and began his international career for Toa Samoa in 2013.
He and fiancée NRL community relations manager Michelle Baillie are here holidaying and planning their wedding.
“It’ll be awesome and humbling to see my family here.”
“My culture is at the core of who I am and what I do,” Taupau told NRL.com.
He said he’d love the opportunity to represent Samoa again down the track.
“That jersey represented not only myself but my family and our culture.
“But for now I am proud to wear the New Zealand jersey and represent my country of birth and the nation that gave my family many opportunities.”
Taupau and Baillie were invited by the Australian High Commission and NRL Samoa to the graduation ceremony of Beyond the Goal Posts Star, a leadership programme for young women.
He said it’s important to empower young women and get them involved in the community.
“They deserve to be celebrated and I’m grateful I was able to be a part of it,” Taupau told NRL.com reporter Tanisha Stanton.
“Unfortunately, gender inequality remains one of the biggest barriers in the development of Pacific countries.”
The programme is unique because it targets young women who haven’t been exposed much to sports in the past, to make sure they don’t miss out on opportunities.
Having enrolled in a Bachelor of Business degree at the University of Technology Sydney in 2017, the idea of looking ‘beyond the goalposts’ and valuing self-improvement off the field is nothing new to Taupau.
“You can only play rugby league for a certain amount of time in your life.
“I’ve been training so hard for so long now, reading all this stuff on different theories and business angles, it’s very interesting.”
Taupau just finished an academic exam recently, having returned from a three match Kiwis tour of England in October-November.
“It’s been really tough juggling it, all about time management.
“But it’s awesome, learning new skills.”
The NRL recently did a study of props and locks who had over 150 carries in the 2018 season.
It concluded that Taupau was one of the hardest players to tackle, with his carries drawing three or more defenders 71% of the time.
Taupau was second to only Newcastle Knights forward David Klemmer (75%) in this statistic.
Meanwhile Samoan international and fellow Knights forward James Gavet was 9th at 65%.