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Former Toa Samoa locked down in France with chance to reflect

Time away from the game in lockdown has given former Toa Samoa forward, Constantine, Mika the chance to embrace his family and reflect on his career.

The 30-year-old had been captaining Toulouse Olympique to an undefeated start in England and France’s second-tier RFL Championship when the COVID-19 pandemic saw the season suspended indefinitely.

Mika and his family have been in lockdown in south-west France’s Toulouse for three weeks, but he told Radio New Zealand’s Talei Anderson that the time spent with his partner, two-year-old daughter and newborn son is a blessing.

"I guess this lockdown has come at a time where I'm needed the most at home,” he said.

Government restrictions under the lockdown meant there was a chance Mika would miss his son’s birth three weeks ago.

"I wasn't allowed in the ward and the delivery itself was a bit touch-and-go there [of] whether I could be in the delivery," he said.

"Obviously with the restrictions we couldn't take our daughter with us. I have no family here so luckily we have some good mates in the team that took our daughter for the night and it was hard because it was the first time that we've ever been away from her."

"It was pretty tough but luckily baby was okay, mum was okay and that's most important."

The time spent at home has also allowed Mika a chance to reflect on the way his career panned out and share lessons with the next generation:

"I've lived it, I've done that, so if I can help someone else so that they don't do the same stupid stuff I did or make the same mistakes I did, hopefully they can look back and say 'you know what I did my absolute best' and when they finish up they can be satisfied with their career.

"I think I probably could have been better than what I ended up being. I've just ended up with an average career and I know that, but there's a lot I've learnt in my time so I just want to share my experiences and hopefully help someone.

"I know there's another me out there somewhere, either coming through the ranks or they might find themselves following a similar journey and feeling the way I was back then… something I say might resonate with them and help them in some sort of way."

Mika left high school in Auckland when he picked up a contract with the National Rugby League’s New Zealand Warriors.

"But that transition from school to playing professionally made it real and that's when it became a job,” he said. 

“It wasn't really a passion and I just didn't give it everything I had because it ended up being a job."

Mika moved to the Newcastle Knights in 2009 and made his first-grade debut, before playing one test in Samoa in 2010.

He joined Hull Kingston Rovers in the Super League in 2012, but only lasted one season there.

"Playing in the UK that was the final straw for me,” Mika said. 

“I wasn't giving it my all and I wasn't wholeheartedly in rugby league… and then you've got the fans over there who are really passionate and they let you know if you're having a bad game [and] they really get in your face. 

"That's when I thought 'stuff this, I don't need to deal with this crap, I don't want to play anymore' and I packed up shop to come home."

But soon enough he returned to France to play for rugby union club Provence in Pro D2:

"When I came back home I started to remember why I started playing this game. I played because I enjoyed it and I guess that's just what I do now. I just play for a different reason, I enjoy playing, and it's been that way ever since I've been back playing in France."

Mika counts himself lucky to have found himself a ‘home away from home’ at Toulouse Olympique.

"This team is different to any other team I've ever played in,” he said. 

“The coach has created this environment where the boys want to turn up, they want to be there for training and they want to play for him and play for each other and over my career there's been some instances where that hasn't been the case."

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