Mahe Fonua  Digital Image by Brett Crockford ©nrlphotos.com :	    NRL, Rugby League, Round 23,  Melbourne Storm v  Cronulla Sharks @ AAMI Park, Melbourne, VIC, Saturday 16th August, 2014.

While many NRL players follow a similar path to the big time, Mahe Fonua was forced to pave his own.

In fact, if family influence had trumped that of a friend, he may never have sat down with NRL.com to share his unique story.

Growing up in north Dandenong on the outskirts of Melbourne, a 10-year-old Fonua was introduced to rugby league by a primary school friend.

Be there when Storm take on the Sharks, Saturday 21 March from 7:30pm at AAMI Park.

While his potential was instantly recognisable he admits his first game for the South East Titans came with humble beginnings.

"I didn't even have boots, I was wearing runners," Fonua said.

"Growing up at the time it wasn't the first preferred sport… it was more of a fun thing because my friends at the time were playing and I wanted to hang out with them. My first few games I scored a couple of tries in a game in under-10s.

"All my family was from a rugby union background and I asked my dad when I got older if he would've taken me to play and he said he was going to wait until I was older and take me to play union.

"If it wasn't for my friend Henry I probably would have played union."

It was a true sliding doors moment and one that landed him in the nation's capital by the age of 16 when he was awarded a scholarship with the Raiders.

Without hesitation mum, dad, and his four younger siblings (three younger sisters and brother) all packed up to help Fonua chase the dream. 

However after two fruitless years with the Green Machine opportunities ran dry and the family was on a flight back home.

It was then, sitting around the family home, that Fonua received a call from Storm SG Ball coach Kim Williams who invited him down for a trial. A second chance was all he needed.

"He gave me a call and said, 'Hey mate we've got training this afternoon if you'd like to come down for a trial.' So I went down, trained and everything blossomed from there," Fonua said.

Fonua became the first Victorian to play for the Melbourne Storm in Round 23, 2012 against the Titans and has gone on to represent the club 37 times in his first three seasons.

The majority of NRL players you see out there on the weekends owe a lot to their support network and the Storm winger is no different. 

It was the support of those closest to him during those tough years further north that will never be lost on the 22-year-old.

"My family sacrificed what they had to move to Canberra with me and when things didn't work out they just came back like nothing ever happened. They weren't upset or anything," Fonua said.

"Seeing my parents struggle when we were younger really drives me to provide for them now. 

"Family is a major reason why I play, they are my drive and without them and their support coming to each home game and dropping me the odd text it really helps."

Round 3 of the Telstra Premiership is PlayNRL Round where the game will celebrate all that’s great about grassroots rugby league. 

Rugby league is all about having fun, making friends and staying healthy. The NRL is using this round to help promote junior rugby league and thank you, our future stars and fans and heroes who help make it all possible.

Join the conversation at #PlayNRL, get your tickets at nrl.com/tickets and get to a game. Talk to your local junior club about signing up as a player or volunteer and join the thousands of people who make rugby league great.

This article first appeared on NRL.com.