General Todd Byrne interview

PB_old

Guest
I hadn't seen it anywhere online so thought this might be of interest. Quite a good read.

** WARNING. LONG POST.**


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Byrne Factor

How a skinny Sydney Rooster found redemption by joining the Warriors, and provided some of the highlights in an otherwise disappointing season.
By Lee Umbers (Featured in FQ Men - Spring 2005).

Todd “Skinny†Byrne knew he was on for a change of culture when he switched from Sydney’s glamour league club, the Roosters, to the South Auckland-based Warriors. But the lanky Aussie, from the Sydney beachside suburb of Maroubra, discovered he was really in a different ‘hood when new team-mate Sione Faumuina invited him back to his house to meet the boys.

“It was the first night I had off training after training,†Byrne, 27 recalls. “I got a taxi to there by myself because I really didn’t know anyone. I got out of the cab and there were all these massive Maori and Polynesian guys in singlets and baseball caps drinking beers.


“I was the only guy white guy there – it was a bit like being Eminem in D12. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, but I ended up having a great night.â€Â
The bonding session marked the start of a remarkable revival for Byrne, who left the Sydney Roosters still being blamed by bitter fans for costing the club a grand final.

Surrounded by heavily muscled Polynesian team-mates, the slightly built Australian has become the cream in the Warriors coffee – leading the club’s try-scoring this season with an impressive 14 tries in his first 16 games.

Byrne credits the Warriors laidback environment for helping him rediscover his rhythm, both on and off the football field. “At the Roosters, it’s so intense you weren’t even allowed a Walkman in the dressing rooms. But you’ve got R&B and hip-hop pumping out in the Warriors’ changing sheds before a game, and everyone is dancing around while they’re getting changed. I’m more into heavy metal and punk myself, but it’s really helped my game. I’m totally relaxed before a match and much better on the field.â€Â

While Byrne is now hailed a hero on this side of the Tasman, he’ll forever be remembered by Sydney fans as the target of that tackle in the Roosters’ 2003 NRL grand final against Penrith.

Snatching up a pass off a loose ball, the winger sprinted down the field with no defender in sight. Byrne made it 55 metres before being tackled into touch by the unlikely figure of hulking Panthers forward Scott Sattler. The scores had been locked up at six all before failed breakaway. Penrith went on to win 18-6, and he was busted to reserve grade the following season.

“I copped heaps of shit from the fans over it,†says Byrne. “People were saying, ’Mate, you lost the grand final for us.’ I’ll never live it down I’m not ashamed of it. I was playing in the Roosters, a team that was one of the best in the competition> I was holding my place amongst all of its stars, and we got into the grand final. I don’t think I had a bad game, and that was just one, five-second part of the game. But it was defining for me, in that if we’d won the grand final things might have turned out differently, and I‘d never be over here at the Warriors.

Byrne’s philosophical approach to the incident was also born out of an experience two years earlier that will forever haunt him – standing beside the World Trade Centre, in which nearly 3000 people lost their lives. He and three friends had planned an OE that would, by chance, take them through America a few weeks after the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks.

“We started off in Peru, trekking an Inca trail, and went across to Rio and up to Cancun in Mexico. By the time we made it to LA, the security was phenomenal. When we got to New York, we went to the ruins and they were still smouldering, and that was three weeks after the attack happened.

“I’d heard about the planes being flown into the towers when I was driving home in Sydney, and I’d stayed up all night with Mum watching it unfold on TV. And then when I got there, the scale was so enormous – two city blocks destroyed.

“People get worried about football, or get pissed off because they haven’t got what somebody else has got, then you see all these poor people who have been blown up in the buildings, and it just makes you realise there’s a lot more to life that money, or material stuff.

It also made me wonder about the reasons behind the attack. I always argue with Fieny [Warriors team-mate Nathan Fien] about America. He’s pro-America and I try to be a little more analytical.â€Â

It’s not just Byrne’s politics that have an international flavour. He has a bachelor of arts from Wollongong University, majoring in cultural studies and communications, and he can speak Spanish, Indonesian and Portuguese.
Byrne used his ability in the last language to help win over his Brazilian girlfriend – Sherolin Teixeira dos Santos, 24 – whom he met a Maroubra in 2002, while she was on a working holiday.
“I’d had my knee operated on and was on crutches, so we just sat around and chatted and things went from thereâ€Â, he says.
Sherolin is completing a public communications degree, majoring in advertising, in Sydney.
“When she passes, she’ll apply for a visa here, to come and live with me,†says Byrne.
“She’s been over here a few times, and the Warriors have made her feel special. They put her in the box, and all the girls showed her around.
“She loves the family atmosphere. We went to (fullback) Brent Webb’s house the other day and had a little party, and (lock) Wairangi Koopu’s add was playing the guitar, and his mum was singing, and they were doing the haka and all the Maori songs, and Sherolin thought it was the coolest thing in the world.â€Â

Sherolin, who comes from the torn of Curituba, south of Rio de Janeiro, hadn’t seen league – or the attention its stars get – before arriving in Australia. The Roosters, with pin-up players like Craig Wing and Luke Ricketson, are mobbed by female fans.

Byrne didn’t get the love letters and the indecent video proposals some Sydney stars regularly receive, but he had his own rather more innocent fan club.
“There were a bunch of young girls who would me follow me around and have their banners up every game and take photos, which was pretty cool. When we went to play the Roosters in Sydney this year, they were there, and they came up after the game and were chatting and screaming.â€Â

Byrne and Sherolin share a common sporting interest in their love of surfing.

“I got into surfing at about seven with all my mates from school.†he said. “We surfed before school and after school every day. I did a fair few trips to Indonesia, surfing with my mates, we’d get a boat and go around the islands and surf all the breaks. We did that for four or five years.â€Â

Byrne grew up with, and surfed alongside, Maroubra’s infamous Bra Boys. He didn’t hang with the hard-core bunch out of the water, but still enjoyed at bit of mischief. “We went down the coast once in Australia to a place called Mystics. One of my mates was scared of sharks, and the water was a bit brown. So I swum under his board and bit him on the leg. He shat himself.â€Â

Byrne kept up his fitness with surfing after he gave away league as a teen, frustrated at failing to make a representative side, “I started playing league at [the age of] four at South Eastern,†he said. “I played halfback of stand-off. I was always really tiny, but I was really quick and I loved tackling – I just had to get the big guys around the legs.

“I trialled with Souths for the Matthew Shield under – 15s but didn’t get in. I was pretty pissed off, so I quit footy for four or five years and went surfing. It was probably the best thing I very did because it gave my body a break. All the guys I grew up with got real injured between 14 and 20 and didn’t kick on.â€Â

Byrne decided to have another crack at league at age 20, playing a season for the Mattaville Tigers, and then the Coogee Wombats.

He was soon spotted by his now agent Steve Gillis, who got him a trail at the Roosters early in 2000.

“The first day of training was at Maroubra Beach. They hadn’t given me any training gear, so I ware a basketball singlet and a pair of boardies. I’m 189cm and I was weighing about 76kg then. The coach said, “Mate, what’s your nickname?†I said I didn’t really have one. He said, “Well, I’m giving you one now – and it’s Skinny.†It just stuck.â€Â

Byrne turned out for the reserve grade all of 2000, graduated to the top side the following season, and ended up playing 61first-grade games for the Roosters. An injury in the semi-finals cost him the chance to be part of the Sydney side that won the premiership in 2002.

Dropped to the reserve grade by the Roosters after round 18 last year, he was approached by the Warriors.

“I ummed and aahed a bit. I didn’t really want to leave home, I’d always grown up in Maroubra, but eventually I met their general manager, Spiro Tsiros, and I liked what he said about the club and I thought it was a good challenge.

“The first week I was here it was really sunny, and I was thinking “What the hell’s everyone complaining about the weather for?†And then for the next three months it was awful. I left for Sydney on December 23, and I remember the day before that I was sitting in my tracksuit and beanie and ug boots, and I was depressed and homesick. But I got back to Australia and had two weeks of sun and got to see my girlfriend again and came back and it was all sweet. The weather was good, and we got back into our footy. And Auckland’s like a small Sydney – friendlier, though, people are more down to earth.â€Â

Byrne was determined to repay the Warriors’ faith in him – and has done so by scoring nearly a try a game.

“I always felt at the Roosters there were so many superstars in the team that I was way down the bottom of the list to be in the attacking plans. SO when I came over here, my main goal was to get involved as much as I can. While I’ve got a fair few tries, it’s been because of our good forwards and Stacey Jones, and Nathan’s kicking game.

“Everyone knows how talented the Warriors are with guys like Sione and Clinton Toopi. They’ve got all the skills. I’m just lucky to be on the end of the backline.â€Â

Byrne is on a three-year contract with the Warriors. “I think with all the young guys coming through, there’s a good future to the club, so if I can stay here for a few more years for another contract, I certainly would.â€Â

One aspect of the Warriors regime Byrne is exempted from is the strict diets imposed on some of its bulky stars. “I get to eat pretty much what I want. Luckily my metabolism is really quick. But I’d like to have a bit more size on me.

This off-season I’m going to get on the weights hard, and I don’t mind taro – the Tongan steroid – I should eat more of it.â€Â

Byrne is also taking advantage of a business development course the warriors run for players. He and Sherolin plan to se up some uniquely Brazilian ventures on both sides of the Tasman.

Byrne stays in regular contact with mum Helen and dad Noel in Sydney. Helen was a completive-level swimmer and top netballer.

“She always tells the story of how she had a choice of going to a Beatles concert or playing a game of netball- she went to the netball and always regretted it.â€Â

She also recently displayed the sort of courage her son shows on the league field.

Vacuuming at the local newsagent, where she works part-time, Helen spotted two youths trying to brake into the till. “She took to them with the vacuum cleaner pipe and bashed them,†Byrne says. “They took off quick.â€Â

Noel, a wharfie for 40 years, ialso remembered for a moment of feistiness. Byrne was able to get into a highly regarded South Sydney High School because his father was a past pupil, “but Dad only attended there for three days. He got expelled for belting one of the teachers.â€Â

Byrne, who is also now learning the guitar, says his philosophy is to be constantly challenged and work hard to reach new goals. “It’s not always the most talented guys who make it, it’s the guys who work the hardest. Over the years, I’ve seen – not just in footy but in a whole lot of different sports – guys who were really talented, but because they’re so talented, they don’t work as hard and end up wasting their ability. If you work hard enough, and get advice off the right people, you’ll make it.

“When I was 14, I’d have only been 40kg. I never thought I was going to make it as a pro footballer – but life works in funny ways.â€Â

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FQMEN is published by ACP Media and is available in magazine outlets for NZ $8.95.

LEE UMBERS is Deputy Editor of the Sunday News.
 

Jackal_old

Guest
awesome article there...interesting stuff. Lucky for him he wasn't any closer to the trade centre's when in America!
 

Jesbass_old

Guest
That's a good article. Good job on typing it all up! I dread to think how long it took you, lol! :lol:
 

Woop Woop_old

Guest
Really really good read, picked up some lingo along the way and sounds like hes settled in just fine in Auckland.

We'll see the Mourbra boy come out of him when we win the Premiership this year and he throws up the Bra Boy sign..like Reni Maitua did back in 04. LOL
 

Wiki_old

Guest
Cheers for the write up.

I'm glad he doesn't change the way he speaks when talking to the media. He just tells it how it is.

Sounds like a top guy.

Also makes you wonder about the environment at the Warriors. The players actually seem to be very happy. The family environment seems to strive. But it must have been the management that struck a few wrong chords. Now that that is sorted I'm looking forward to seeing whats in store for us!
 

Ronnie_7_old

Guest
Iou always knew that it wasn't the players though. i never doubted that it was management who struck the wrong cords
 

Skinny_Ravs82

Guest
Anyway that's all in the past so we don't need to focus on all that. It's a new year so lets get on with it!!
 

Wiki_old

Guest
Ronnie_7 said:
Iou always knew that it wasn't the players though. i never doubted that it was management who struck the wrong cords

Oh of course. I never doubted that either. Maybe I wrote my post in the wrong way.
 

Iafeta_old

Guest
He sounds like a pretty smart sort of character. Good on him for getting a degree and trying to learn about the world around us.

I'm quite impressed the club is putting the players through business development courses, thats got to be a positive for the players to give them a break from football, help grow their attitudes to what is outside of football and give them something positive to work for when football comes to an end.
 

scottyb_old

Guest
all clubs are making the effort to give the players a life after football but it seems todd has his head scewed on right, good on him, and i wish him well in life with and after the warriors
 

fiamacho_old

Guest
Awesome article thanks a lot Bob, there is a definite edge to Byrne which really shows in this article.
 

MarkW_old

Guest
Great article, thanks for posting it.

It's nice to learn a bit more about a player's background; it says a lot about the type of person they are.
Interesting what he said about some people who are naturally gifted/talented but don't put the same amount of work into their game. I think there are a few lads at the club that could heed that advice.

Cool too see Skinny representing the liberal surfer punk rocking metalheads too!!! ;)
 

Skinny_Ravs82

Guest
Hehe yeah so know what ya mean. I'm going to have to find a copy of that and get it for myself!!
 

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