Young Tonumaipea, a rising rugby league star with the Melbourne Storm, is leaving it all on the field to serve a mission in Germany.
“I was so nervous telling the club, I fasted and prayed before going to see coach. Being in the prime of my career, I knew this wouldn’t be easy but the day I decided to go and talk with him he happened to be walking towards me down the corridor. I knew that was no coincidence.”
The 25-year-old, from the Melbourne, Craigieburn Stake, transitioned to professional rugby league straight from high school where he played virtually every sport on offer.
“I played anything at school, volleyball, table-tennis, soccer, AFL and rugby league, I’ve always been blessed at sports.”
Even though some of Young’s fans have been skeptical of his decision, the club has been remarkably understanding. “It’s actually amazed me how unbelievably supportive the club has been; I feel very blessed.”
In 2011, fellow rugby mate Lagi Setu, left the Broncos to serve a mission in Birmingham, England.
“Lagi is a great example to me, even though I was living my dream playing rugby league, I . . . could see all the blessings in Lagi’s life that came from his mission.”
“Even though I didn’t fully commit until last year, a mission has always been in the back of my mind, even before rugby league.”
For what appears to be a tremendous sacrifice in the peak of his career, Young said serving a mission is the right thing to do.
“I feel I don’t deserve all the congratulations I’m getting for choosing to go on a mission; as priesthood holders it’s a duty we have to fulfill as young men.”
“My advice to any of the youth or YSA is to stay true to what you know. The hardest times in my career have been when I’ve been away from the teachings of Heavenly Father. When I was doing the right thing, I was doing well at sport.”
Melbourne Storm CEO, Dave Donaghy, is sure that if Young wants to come back after his two-year mission, “he has plenty of footy left in him.'
Young said, “If there was ever a regret in my life it would have been to serve a mission earlier [in my life].”
Young is not sure what the future holds when he returns from Germany in two years, “but I have faith that things will work out.”