It’s not everyday that a Wallaby player guest speaks at our assembly. Rarer still, is for that international sportsman to be an Old Boy who, at the current peak of his career, has something to say about overcoming negativity and finding the courage to dig deep and keep going.
Allan Alaalatoa (ON 2011) returned to the Centenary Hall stage last Wednesday for the Winter Sports Assembly. Reminiscing about his time at Newington, Allan says that Newington is the place “where I learnt a lot about myself and more so about how I can take on life post school”.
Allan came to Newington in Year 9 and says he was ‘that kid’ who took his schooling and life for granted; “who always chose the easy option and didn’t want to work hard”, he said.
“My first few weeks at Newington, I hated it, I was never used to wearing uniform, or handing in assignments on time, or even completing my homework. It was a huge change which at the time I disliked but not knowing how it would all change my life around”.
Allan remembers being asked by Mr Brad Gill to train with the First XV after a PE session where a beep test that Allan felt was his worst ever, showed his potential.
“To this day I remember my PE teacher, the one who happened to be the coach who came to me and said ‘Kid I see you have so much talent, but that’s only going to get you so far. You need to be able to work hard and have the ability to keep striving to be the best, and I am going to teach you that’.
“Coming to Newington changed my mindset at a reasonably young age. When I was 16 I had made the NSW Rep team and handed in my assignments on time and then I was thinking if I can make it here I can go one more. So I pushed on to make the Aussie Schools team and from finishing assignments I sat my HSC, which I never thought I would do”.
As Allan stood on stage speaking to a sea of Black and White boys, at the back on his mind was the Bledisloe Cup game he had to play on Saturday and the mountain of comments he and his teams were facing in the lead up to it. Australia hadn’t won the cup since 2002 and his year in Super Rugby, not one Australian team was able to overcome the all mighty All Blacks.
In response to the negative comments he was receiving, Allan said “Only I can make those comments matter to me if I believe in them”.
“People don’t understand the work we go through; the sacrifices we make to be where we are today and to have this rare opportunity to play this game this weekend. All people see is results. When you are at the top, people are just waiting for you to fall”.
Allan said that in the midst of this kind of scrutiny and judgement, it’s important to know why it is that you do what you do.
“There has to be a purpose to why you want to wake up in the morning and start your day. I’ve learnt that if you have a big enough why you can figure out the how.”
Allan said that for him, his family is his backbone and the reason why he does what he does.
“Because of my ‘why’ I am able to disregard all the noise that is irrelevant and concentrate firmly on the challenge ahead.
“This weekends’ game is a huge challenge and a milestone for me. I grew up watching these games on TV. And now I get the opportunity to put on that jersey and be the person I was watching when I was younger. With challenge comes nerves. You are always going to be nervous facing the biggest challenges of your life. But why are you nervous? It is because you have the fear of failure. You are nervous because you have the fear of doubt in yourself. But why are you fearing failure, when you have done the preparation? When you prepare yourself the best you can for a challenge the only thing that is stopping you from putting it on the field is your mindset.”
Great advice for all our boys, especially those sitting the Year 12 Trials and the Year 11 exams.