The well known saying, ‘behind every successful man, there is a strong woman’ rings true for Newcastle Knights’ twin brothers Jacob and Daniel Saifiti.
The brothers credit their achievements to the support, encouragement and guidance from important women in their lives, most notably their mother Beverly and grandmother Mereani.
As the National Rugby League and Newcastle Knights celebrate Women in League Round this week, the pair has opened up about the strong, capable women in their lives who have shaped them into the respectful and successful men they have grown to be.
“We are both quite fortunate to have a lot of women in our life who influence us a lot,” Jacob told Knights TV.
“We have been lucky enough to live with both my Nan and my mum growing up and they are wonderful role models,” Daniel added.
“They have guided us not only on the field but off the field as well.
“Whatever we needed, whether it be training gear or boots, that was always there for us.
“It’s been great to have beautiful, strong women in our lives.”
The brothers, who share Fijian heritage on their maternal side, believe the prominent role women play in their family is due partly because of their culture.
“I think Fijians are very protective and sometimes over protective. In that sense they were always there for us,” Daniel said.
“Words can’t describe how supportive they have been.”
More recently, Jacob has welcomed another supportive, female influence into his life, his girlfriend Imogen.
“She sacrifices a lot for me and will do anything to help me, not only just at home. She is always there for me and I’m very grateful,” he said.
Since completing their first NRL pre-season this year, the Entrance Tigers Juniors have seen their first grade careers blossom, with Jacob and Daniel accruing 13 and 15 NRL appearances respectively to date.
“I still remember when we went back on a Friday night and told them we were debuting in the NRL,” Daniel said.
“It was such a surprise they started balling their eyes out and even I had a bit of a tear as well.
“Anything we do, we make them really proud and it’s definitely a motivation for us, to make them proud.”
“When we are playing they were always yelling from the sideline and supportive."
But it’s the support and lessons away from the football field they are most thankful for.
“They have taught us to respect woman,” Jacob said.
“They have taught us life lessons like to respect others and to treat others the way we’d like to be treated.
“Every day we learn something different from them.”
More broadly in rugby league, the 20-year-olds also recognised the countless women who contribute to game.
More than 450,000 females have a direct connection with Rugby League - whether it is as administrators, players, coaches, employees, volunteers or club members - women really are at the heart of the game.
“Growing up during junior rugby league, women were always in the canteen, always helping out. Our team managers growing up were woman as well," Daniel said.
“They are definitely a big part of rugby league and we definitely couldn’t do it without them.”
Both brothers are proud their Club has embraced Women in League Round and believe the initiative, now in its 10th year, is an important feature of the NRL season.
“We have had really strong women in our lives and for the NRL to recognise the big roles they do play in rugby league, it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Daniel said.
With their mother was in Fiji at the moment, their grandmother Mereani was happy to shed light on the twins as part of Women in League Round.
“I am very proud of them. I am happy they have grown up into beautiful young men,” Mereani said.
Filled with pride, she explained how she shares a special bond with her grandchildren.
“They were very good kids growing up. They were always kicking their ball around the backyard,” she added.
“People always say they are giants, but they are very gentle boys.”
Mereani praised the brothers for their respectful and compassionate nature and said she hopes to see their success continue on and off the field.
“They are good grandsons, I have eight grand kids and they are the oldest in the family. They are good role models to the younger kids,” she said.
“They are very respectful and I’m very proud of them."
Seeing his grandmother last weekend in the crowd at Manly, helped put things into perspective for Jacob.
“Walking over to the crowd, seeing her face smiling really cheered me up,” he said.
“I gave her a kiss after the game, through juniors we always did the same thing, and it really brightened me up.”
The Newcastle Knights will toast the significant contribution of women to the game of rugby league during Women in League Round this Saturday at Hunter Stadium.
Arrive to the game early and experience the Women in League pamper zone and receive special gifts as the Club celebrates women and the role they play at all levels of the Rugby League family.