Wests Tigers' Sauaso Sue (centre) will line-up for Samoa against England on Saturday night, a long way from the Brisbane police station he was locked up in in 2014.
Wests Tigers' Sauaso Sue (centre) will line-up for Samoa against England on Saturday night, a long way from the Brisbane police station he was locked up in in 2014. PAUL MILLER

West Tigers star not one for gossip

RUGBY LEAGUE: Sauaso Sue is sitting in a Fortitude Valley police cell, thinking two things.

"I'm never coming back here ... and I'm never going back to Hot Gossip."

Before he cracked it as an NRL first grader, Sue had planned a career putting people behind bars, applying to Goulburn's police academy as a teenager.

On the wrong side of them for one horrible Brisbane night in 2014, the Samoan international feared that one way or another, he'd soon be seeing a whole lot more of the cop shop.

Sue had his "fair share" of run-ins with the local constabulary growing up in the rough and tumble western Sydney suburb of Macquarie Fields.

But the stakes were scary high when he and Samoan teammates Reni Maitua and Tautau Moga were arrested over a fight at Brisbane nightclub Hot Gossip during the 2014 Four Nations.

On hand as VIP guests at a meet-and-greet event with fans, the trio were among eight men pinched for their part in a violent brawl that had to be defused with capsicum spray.

"I don't know if I should share this one," Sue said, able to offer a wry smile three years on.

"I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and we ended up getting locked up. It was the worst experience I had ever gone through to that point.

"There's a little scuffle, a push and shove outside the club and Reni and I were walking past together.

"The coppers were trying to sort it out and they were pushing everyone around.

"Then a copper tackled us from behind and before we knew it we were locked up in Brisbane.

"Hot Gossip man, I'll never forget it, and I'm never going back."

Charges of assaulting police and public nuisance against Sue were dropped a month later. So too Moga's public nuisance ticket.

All three players were fined $10,000 by the NRL and stood down for Samoa's tournament opener against England.

Maitua's checkered NRL career never recovered and he only played two more games of top-flight rugby league in the UK before retiring.

Sitting in that stinking Brisbane lock-up, Sue is wondering if his own future has just gone down that same, depressing drain.

"You're thinking the worst," he said.

"Everything's going through your head. Your family, your reputation, your club, what's going to happen.

"It was a shocking 24 hours being locked up. Just sitting there in that room wondering what's going to happen.

"Knowing that it's not your fault but knowing that there's nothing I could do about, that was really rough.

"You're wondering if it's all been thrown away, your career, in something stupid like that, it's crazy."

To be clear, the Kiwi-born, Australian-raised son to Samoan parents never needed to turn his life around.

Aside from that one night in the wrong, Sue is what the Polynesian rugby league community sorely needs.

Softly spoken like so many of his ilk but more than willing to raise a tough conversation.

A beyondblue ambassador, the 25-year-old is one of the strongest voices the game has on the, sadly, still often taboo topics of depression and mental health.

His tough upbringing in Sydney's wild west give him firm ground from which to lead the discussion.

"The Macquarie Fields riots were not too long after we moved in from New Zealand. That was an eye-opener," he said.

"Footy's massive out at Macquarie. Everyone at my school played footy, all the boys that I grew up with. I mean everyone.

"You don't know the impact it has on young lives, it's just part of the tradition and culture out there.

"When I was coming up, you did look up to the older guys and they gave you advice and kept you out of trouble coming through.

"If I can help any kid out with anything, be it talking someone through a tough time or just showing them how to get the best out of themselves in footy and life, it's a great start.

"Those days were tough but it's made me who I am today and I wouldn't change a thing."

Things have changed though, since that fateful night in Fortitude Valley.

Sue will again be in the thick of it when Samoa take on a strong English side at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night.

Last year in the same mid-year fixture against Tonga, the Tigers big man led the Samoans' traditional war dance, the Siva Tau.

He rates it as a career highlight.

"The goosebumps man, I couldn't believe it. It was an honour to lead the boys, one I never expected. It was a really humbling experience and a really proud moment too."

Not to mention a hell of a long way from Hot Gossip and the Fortitude Valley lock-up.

News Corp Australia

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