Fa’amanu Brown has fought through the kind of adversity that makes the prospect of a long-awaited Super League debut amid the red-hot atmosphere of a Hull derby on Thursday night the easy bit.
One of nine siblings, Brown endured childhood poverty in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he shared a bedroom in a state housing complex with four brothers.
Packed off alone to chase his rugby league dream in Australia at the age of 17, Brown struggled with mental health and homesickness, then in 2019 sustained a foot injury and was told by surgeons he would never run again.
“I went through a lot of trauma in my life,” Hull FC star Brown told the PA news agency.
“I remember lining up to go to the Salvation Army because we didn’t have any clothes on our back. I know what it’s like to live in a car and come from nothing.
“All that stuff growing up, it made me and my siblings understand and appreciate life. Our parents worked in factories and we were determined to break the cycle. A lot of people take this game for granted, but for me, I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
Having successfully landed NFL deals with first Cronulla Sharks then Canterbury Bulldogs, Brown sustained a foot injury playing for the latter in 2019 that required three operations and led to his devastating diagnosis.
“I’d had a big build-up about the kind of player I was going to be in the future, and those injuries just knocked me down,” added Brown.
“I broke a bone in my foot and had limited blood supply, and the surgeon said I would never run again. I was 24 years old and I hadn’t even reached my peak.
“When I was told the news I just broke down and cried but I knew in myself that with my journey and where I’d come from, it wasn’t going to stop me doing what I love.”
Released by Canterbury that same year, Brown’s road to redemption began in the unlikely surroundings of Featherstone, with whom he spent an impressive 2021 campaign, culminating in a play-off defeat to Toulouse.
Brown spent the next two years back in Australia but did not have to be asked twice to pack his bags again when Hull FC head coach Tony Smith identified him as the player he wanted to form part of his crucial half-back pairing this season.
Despite snow slapping the windows of the Aviva Studios in Manchester during last week’s Super League season launch, Brown is thrilled to get the chance to finally feature in the English top-flight.
“I’ve always wanted to play Super League and here I am now,” Brown continued.
“My season at Featherstone obviously made me appreciate the weather more in Australia, but it made me more mentally tough and resilient being away from my family.
“I can’t wait to start with a Hull derby. A lot of people are talking about it and putting on a lot of pressure, but it’s nothing new. I’ve played in big games before and I’ll treat this game the same way.
“Now that I’ve finally made it to Super League, I’m just trying to make the most of it.”