The world of Rugby League.

Almost Lost To The Game



[h=1]Parramatta prodigy Jacob Loko was almost lost to the game[/h]
[*] Paul Crawley
[*] The Daily Telegraph
[*] March 14, 2013 12:00AM

WE DON'T always know where they have come from, what they have overcome.

They don't all have the Norman Rockwell upbringing, a life bright and idyllic.
Sometimes, life happens.
Joanna Loko is talking through her son Jacob's journey, how he came to be standing where he is.
Tonight the Eels take on the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium and Loko goes head-to-head against another former Campbelltown City junior, Krisnan Inu.
This is the latest Campbelltown prodigy on the cusp of becoming one of the game's next superstars - a young sensation who grew up playing for the same junior club that delivered Inu, Jarryd Hayne, Tony Williams, Trent Hodkinson and the Keating brothers, Kris and Matt.
Loko has 11 NRL games to his name, yet he is a talent so special NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley picked him in the emerging Origin squad this year - despite the fact he hadn't played a single game since June 2011 because of injury.

But to understand all he has overcome to be where he is today, Joanna takes you back. The mother of four starts by explaining the family's background, how she separated from the father of her children 15 years ago.
The kids all still live at home, she says, along with a grandchild.
"I have raised my children on my own," she says.
"I have been wearing both hats and it hasn't been easy. Being the father, being the mother and I work as a carer ... I couldn't have done it without God in my life."
They grew up in the Claymore housing commission estate near Campbelltown.
She continues: "I can't say it was easy, it was tough, but the community there gave us great support."
Joanna says there was a defining moment in Jacob's young life in 2007.
"Their dad wanted the whole lot of them to go back to Tonga but I refused to allow my girls to go," she says.
"I did allow the boys to go, Jacob and his older brother, Aaron.
"When Jacob was born we were in Tonga for the first three years of his life and we then moved back here.
"So I allowed them to go see their Dad because he was very low in his health ."
There is a moment of silence before she continues.
"It is very deep," she says. "I don't know if I should be sharing to the public what Jacob has seen.
"Living in Tonga, I mean, him and his older brother have seen a lot, the way I have been treated.
"Jacob would have been three years old, Aaron was four.
"That is why we left Tonga. We were there for three years.
"I don't like to dwell on it because they don't reflect that. They don't have to mimic what their dad did. We encourage them to move forward, make a choice.
"We all have a choice in life. But in 2007 when their dad asked them to go to Tonga, I was glad they did go because they got to see their dad and a year after that he passed away."
When the boys returned from Tonga, she says, they had changed.
They were boys when they went over, and they came back men.
And soon after Jacob's football career took flight.
He debuted in first grade at 18 but played 10 games before injury struck.
It was June 2011 when Loko first tore his left ACL. Five months later, he did it again, wrestling with Hayne in the gym during pre-season.
It kept him sidelined for a season and a half and during that time he almost lost his way.
There are plenty of stories about what he got up to, and the company he was keeping. He says it was his mother who kept him on track.
"I am lucky I had my mum to keep me going," he says."It was real tough. I had times when I was thinking I had to do something else."
Which is what had his mother worried. "Jacob never really shared a lot to me but I could see it in his ways, he was not himself," Joanna recalls.
"He would be going out a lot. I was worried big time, the change of his friends. I thought he would throw it away. I did ask him 'do you still want this? Do you want what you have worked hard for?'
"He said: 'Yes, I do.' But at the time I think it was just the frustration of what he was going through. He was angry with himself."
Then in June last year, a year on from when he first suffered his first ACL tear, something happened that proved to be another turning point.
Former Eels trainer Craig Catterick had turned up at Parramatta Stadium at 3.45am to prepare for the day's pre-dawn start and found Loko curled up on a concrete floor in a sleeping bag.
The day before Jacob had slept in and missed his 6am start.
At the time he was running out of chances at the club.
They told him to be there at 4am sharp the next day, no excuses. This time Jacob took no chances, got there at 2am, with his sleeping bag.
From that point on, they say, he hasn't looked back. Then when Ricky Stuart arrived, Loko really got moving. Stuart says it is important to remember Loko is still only 20.
"He's a good young kid but he has to keep his feet on the ground and his mind on the job," the coach says.
But last Saturday, Loko says he still had to pinch himself to believe his luck - just to be out there playing again, with guys he grew up admiring.
Jacob smiles: "It was a mad feeling last weekend. The crowd was going crazy. I missed that feeling."
Joanna says getting a call-up for the emerging Origin squad had a huge impact on her son, and so has the new coach.
"What Ricky has done this year has just made them realise this is their family also, Parramatta," Joanna says.
"They have got one another's back and I think that is what has given Jacob that fire.
"The game he played on Saturday was just ... he had fire in him, he was ready.
"It was like watching him play for Campbelltown City again.
"It was so good." 


Great to see he's back and playing phenomenal footy. 

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