While Anthony and Saia Fainga’a are renowned rugby union players, strong family values inspire the Fainga’a Twins. The twin brothers from Canberra credit their success to the pillar in their family – their grandmother. And regardless of the goals they kick in football, it is the big moves for breast cancer research that remains at the forefront of their minds. With the Fainga’a matriarch Evelyn Kelly personally affected by breast cancer more than once, the twins have been motivated to create events that raise necessary funding for and awareness in breast cancer research.
With five years of successful Think Pink events under their belts, from golf days to long lunches and ladies high teas, Anthony and Saia are excited to host the Think Pink Gala Ball this year from the Victoria Park Golf Complex. In 2015, the Think Pink Gala Ball is particularly special, focusing on teammate Jake Schatz and his family in memory of Jake’s mother. And in the lead up to this remarkable event, Anthony talks their journey in life and sport, memorable moments, their aims in raising breast cancer awareness and how they are doing their job as the Fainga’a twins, young football players and young men.
Has the Fainga’a family been touched personally by cancer? Yes, we have. My grandma had breast cancer twice and she is still with us today.
What has your journey in life and in sport been like with your brother to get you both where you are today? Our journey started in playing rugby as juniors for union and league – it was tough. Our mum and grandma would take us to games while dad worked during the day and through the night. I was lucky enough to represent my school in the 1st XV – the top school-aged level for boys’ rugby league.
During our careers our grandma has been our biggest supporter – she’s an amazing woman. She helped mum raise four boys and over the years has talked to us about strength and willingness, so she is a big part of our lives. In 2010, she asked if we could help the National Breast Cancer Foundation selling raffle tickets. We suggested doing our own work for the charity. We started by holding golf days, which went so well they turned into golf days plus luncheons; which went so well they turned into golf days plus high tea luncheons for the ladies. It’s been a journey.
People talk about memorable moments: for us it’s playing in World Cup together, singing the national anthem on the field together – all those special moments that can’t be taken away. But the feeling of someone reading out a donation and knowing we’re giving back to the cause is great. Seeing a tear roll down grandma’s face, overwhelmed that we’ve helped her and other women is the best part. She always said cancer doesn’t discriminate and if we can help raise awareness we are doing our job as the Fainga’a twins, young football players and young men.
How do you think your focus on family reflects in your careers’? I wear my heart on my sleeve. People have different values in mind when they run out on the field, but my thing is to make my family proud – and I take that off the field as well. I think it’s in the way my brother and I conduct ourselves that shows our core values, which we hold closely on and off the field.
How do you and your brother both overcome challenges? We had a big life decision to make in 2008 when Saia was offered a contract with the ACT Brumbies and I was offered a minimal contract – which wasn’t what I wanted. So I made the decision to come to the Queensland Reds. I told Saia and he asked me who the coach was. Then he got on the phone and called the coach and asked for an offer – because he was coming with me. Saia and I haven’t played for the money. It’s always been for the love of the game and for our family.
You have both been incredibly successful: what are your greatest achievements are? There’s been a lot: playing for the country and singing our own national anthem in front of 70,000 All Black. Facing The Haka together in our national colours, winning a premiership together. That’s all special. The people around us are really our foundation though.
What do you guys hope to achieve in the future with the National Breast Cancer Foundation? By 2030, we hope breast cancer will be cured. All breast cancer awareness goes towards finding that cure. For us, we hope that in the future women become more aware. We’re trying to make a dent in the younger generations because cancer doesn’t discriminate: it can hit anyone, rich or poor and of any colour.
How did you both become involved with the Think Pink Gala Ball? The Think Pink Gala Ball is run entirely by Saia and myself. We do everything, from going out and speaking to sponsors to setting up on the night – we do it all. We speak with every newspaper and everyone who helps financially. We also coordinate with the NBCR.
This year we’re doing a big feature on Jake Schatz – our teammate whose mum passed away with breast cancer in 2011. This is very close to his heart. Now that some time has passed, Saia and I thought it might be right to do something. He was happy for us to do it and their family will come along. I hope we can make it a good night for them.