Norths fans are glad Sam Lavea is on their side for this Hostplus Cup finals series, three years after he ended a Devils dream in his last post-season.
Lavea scored the try for Easts Tigers that knocked the Devils out of the 2019 play-offs, drawing despair from the Devils fans who were seeking a first finals win in seven years.
Only three Devils remain from that 2019 team as Lavea joins them for tomorrow’s qualifying final against minor premiers Burleigh Bears on the Gold Coast.
Lavea has relished his time in the Devils pack this season and the skilful 26-year-old is looking forward to finals football with the defending premiers.
Lavea is an imposing sight on the field at 190cm and 110kg but that appearance belies the setback that almost ended his career six years ago.
After a plane flight, Lavea developed deep vein thrombosis and a blood clot in his leg moved into his lungs.
“I didn’t really know what was happening but I was really struggling to breathe,” Lavea said.
“I went to hospital to find out why I wasn’t feeling well and they told me my lungs were starting to shut down. I spent four weeks in hospital.
“The specialist there told me that I would probably never play football again which was tough to hear. I started thinking about what I might do outside of football because it didn’t look great.”
The former Sunnybank State High School student married his high school sweetheart Tess in one of the happiest days of his life.
It took nine months for Lavea to overcome the blood clot and then begin the small steps back into football.
The Broncos gave him a fulltime contract and a Queensland Cup debut with Souths Logan Magpies in 2017 before Lavea switched to the Melbourne Storm system and played with the Tigers.
He still has a goal to play NRL alongside some of his teammates from his Queensland Under 18 team including Coen Hess, Jai Arrow, Lachlan Lewis and Marion Seve.
“I’ll never stop chasing that dream because it’s the goal for most players,” Lavea said.
“But right now we’re just looking forward to these finals.
“Burleigh are a really good team but we’re in better form than when we last played them and we’ve been able to get some players back from injury.
“We’ve been quite solid the last four weeks and some of the boys are in their best form of the season so we’re excited about playing finals.
“And we’re just really enjoying playing together.”
Lavea has enjoyed the Devils, where Tess and their daughter Zaylee, 2, have blended into the wider Norths family.
“I’ve never played at a club with so many little children around. It’s been a lot of fun,” Lavea said.
“Playing here has really got me loving footy again. I realise I have a lot to learn and a lot to give.”
Lavea reunited with forward Jerome Veve at the Devils. The pair played footy together at primary school.
Lavea is the youngest of three boys although rugby league doesn’t run in his family. The Forest Lake Magpies junior is the first of his family to play the game while his brothers prefer basketball and martial arts.
His representative path began with the Queensland Under 15 team and Lavea hopes that his continued hard work will reap rewards later in his career.
Photo by Alan Drinnen