So much of a Dad’s work can go unsung. Father’s Day is one of the precious few chances we get to celebrate him. Antonio shares his special story this Father's Day as part of The Dad Files editorial series.
My girls are one of my biggest achievements
Antonio Kaufusi, dad to daughters Telematita (13) and Khloe (7) became a father for the first time when he was 20. “At the time, playing professional football, it put things into perspective. It wasn't just about me and my wife Bree any more; I had my own little family and I wanted to do the right thing.”
As the eldest boy in a family of nine growing up in New Zealand, Antonio learned family responsibilities early as his father had to travel extensively to send money home.
“He didn’t have much choice,” he says.
“I remember walking down to the shops every day, locking up at night, making sure the youngest kids were fed breakfast.”
“As a young kid, when the rare opportunity came and Dad came to my school, I was really proud to have him there. He shows love in a different way – he doesn’t talk much but his actions speak louder than words. He always made sure I had everything I needed. He was always the last to eat. He made sure we ate first. I appreciate all the sacrifices he's made for our family.”
“Mum and dad loved us and did everything they could for us and I'm doing exactly the same thing.”
Speaking of big achievements
League fans will know Kaufusi as a former professional rugby league footballer. He was an Australian and Tongan International and Queensland State of Origin representative prop who played in the NRL for Melbourne Storm, the Cowboys, the Knights and the Bulldogs. He went to the UK to play for three years before coming out of retirement for one last year with the Bulldogs.
When Antonio retired from the NRL he expected to have more time on his hands, but “now I’m doing more stuff than ever!”
He moved back to Bundaberg a few years ago having first arrived at the age of 14 with his family. Now he works as a teacher’s aide at Shalom College, coaches the Local Grade A team and is looking forward to starting his teaching degree next year.
“I just try to be as involved as I can with my kids. I want to give them a better life than I had.
The best thing is seeing what kind of personalities my kids have. I have a bit of fun watching them grow.” As for his own dad, “I spend more time with him. It’s refreshing to see him more often as now he's five minutes down the road.”
Any plans for Father’s Day? “It’s been a busy year. We had a big family reunion back in Tonga early in the year, my youngest sister had her 21st, my youngest brother is getting married – we’ll come up with something!”