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'I grew up with nothing'

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'I grew up with nothing' - Tongan Thor opens up after winning big at RA Awards

Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou has delivered an emotional tribute to his family after scooping two major awards at Friday’s Rugby Australia Awards.

Tupou was named Super Rugby Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year at the award ceremony.

“I know how it feels to have nothing. I grew up with nothing back home and to be able to have all this, it seems like I can help my family have a life instead of having nothing,” he said.

“I get so emotional when I talk about my family but when I go through tough times in training and in games, I think of my mum, and all the hard work and struggles she’s had to go through for us. There’s 11 of us and I’m one of the youngest, so you can imagine when I struggle I think of my family and that makes me keep going.”

After making his Wallabies debut at the end of last year, this season was recognised as his first in full. He has appeared in all but two Wallabies Tests this year and started every Super Rugby match for the Reds.

“It took me two-and-a-half years here to make my debut for the Wallabies and when I did last year it’s a hard one to remember,” Tupou said. “From there ’til today I’ve been lucky enough to be picked in the team and get some more game time which has enabled me to win [the awards]. I’d like to thank all the coaches out for their help to get me where I am today.”

At the ceremony the 22-year-old made a heartfelt tribute to his father, who passed away when Tupou was nine years old.

“He passed away in 2005 and I only started playing in 2006, so he didn’t see much of me playing footy. If I had one wish it would be for him to watch me play,” Tupou said. “I know he’s up there smiling at me.”

Tupou and the Wallabies will take on the All Blacks in Japan this weekend for the third Bledisloe Cup Test.

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'I grew up with nothing' - Tongan Thor opens up after winning big at RA Awards