The making of Renouf To’omaga
From the day he was born, Canterbury forward Renouf To'omaga was destined for a career in rugby league.
Despite following rugby union heavily as a teenager due to his older cousin Jeffery To'omaga-Allen's journey with the All Blacks, it was To'omaga's old man who always kept league in the back of his son's mind.
Confirming he was indeed named after Brisbane Broncos legend Steve Renouf, the 23-year-old had no choice with his father calling the shots as soon he arrived in 1995.
Renouf at the time was in the prime of his rugby league career on the back of 23 tries in 21 games the previous season.
"He (Renouf) was my dad's favourite player growing up. I think he thought it was right to name me after him I guess," To'omaga said.
"Dad tried to get me to [watch his tapes] but I'm not much of a watching rugby league guy. He tries to sit me down and says 'I really think you should try run a line like this ... from a tape from the 1990s. I'm like bro [sic] calm down.'
"I was just like yeah cool, now can we put some cartoons on? I still am [like that]. We're here five days a week and our lives are based around football, so I'd rather get away and watch some cartoons."
The New Zealander has created his own journey to the top.
After moving to Australia to join the Bulldogs in 2013, he's spent six years in the lower grades systems at Belmore.
Canterbury used the fewest players during their unsuccessful 2017 campaign but former coach Des Hasler resisted the urge to blood new players.
It is a statistic which has changed under new coach Dean Pay, who has handed opportunities to To'omaga and Rhyse Martin in recent weeks.
Despite the Bulldogs being in danger of missing the finals and facing a salary cap struggle in the future, To'omaga's own journey in the past fortnight has been impressive.
"It's not too bad, I like it," he said.
"The boys are really inviting. It's just hard in the sense of keeping a standard for them. I'm trying to stay focused on doing a job where I am.
"All the boys are helping me with where I want to be. It means heaps, this is probably my favourite year. Just because I'm playing first grade now.
"Playing with big names like Jacko, Woodsy and Klemmer. It's a real good learning curve. I've thought when you get to a certain age you stop learning but I'm learning more and more."
The Bulldogs tied To'omaga up until the end of 2020 before he made his NRL debut in round 10.
He's eager to repay the faith after admitting a frustrating season in 2017 where he was told by Hasler he would make his NRL debut during the Origin period, only to later struggle with form.
"This has probably been my best year in ISP in three years," he said. The first two were about finding consistency – that's always been my problem. I guess I kind of found some."