Lorenzo's a good oil
WHEN Lorenzo Ma'afu runs out for Parramatta next season, new coach Ricky Stuart can be confident of one thing above any other - knock Ma'afu down and he'll always get back up.
While league is full of players from the school of hard knocks, the Jets' back-rower's path to the NRL has been tougher than most.
It began at 15, when the troubled teen ended up behind bars for armed robbery. For many that's where the story would end.
For Ma'afu, it was just the beginning. Football became his focus and good behaviour was rewarded with the opportunity to travel beyond the high walls for community games. It was there NRL scouts took notice.
"I had about nine months to go on my committal and Keith Onslow came to the juvy home and talked to me about training with the Dogs," Ma'afu said.
"Before, I was training for fun but after that I really focused."
Two days after his release he was training at Belmore but only two games into his NRL career an incident at a club function left him out in the cold again.
Ma'afu's poor behaviour cost the Bulldogs a sponsor and the back-rower lost his NRL contract.
With other NRL clubs steering clear of the troubled player, Ma'afu found his way to Ipswich.
He reunited with his family and the Gold Coast Titans-aligned Ipswich Jets, who offered him a chance to rebuild his stuttering career.
Ma'afu admits he wasn't ready for what he found.
"When I first got here I hated it," he said candidly. "I was really surprised about how a Q-Cup club ran.
"If you played in the NSW Cup you pretty much train with an NRL club. No offence to the Jets but coming here it was like stepping back to club footy.
"You had to do everything for yourself. One of the funniest things was getting a pay check and finding out we were paying for our own strapping.
"It was a reality check."
Ma'afu stuck out the season and was set to make his mark when a practical joke gone wrong knocked him down again.
A friend's prank of slipping an ecstasy tablet into his drink at a Brisbane pub led to a 15-month drug ban and another chance to walk away from rugby league.
Lorenzo Ma'afu's tough road:
- Jailed for 2½ years aged 15 for armed robbery.
- Sacked from Canterbury in 2008 for an off-field incident.
- Banned from rugby league for 15 months for testing positive to ecstasy after his drink was spiked.
- Contract with Manly fell through after Des Hasler left.