INSPIRATIONAL Manly forward Brent Kite knows what a life-and-death situation is, and it isn't playing in Sunday's grand final.
Brent Kite's cousin Mosiana Vaingalo at her Matraville home yesterday after nearly drowning at Maroubra Beach Picture: Jeremy Piper Source: The Australian
Kite was confronted with a real life-and-death crisis just a few weeks ago when his cherished cousin Mosiana (Na'a) Vaingalo almost drowned at Maroubra beach.
Mosiana, 21, and her two younger sisters, 14 and 15, were swept away at their local beach and were rescued by surfers and Kite's brother-in-law.
Just as the family was rejoicing that they were all safely back on the beach, Mosiana stopped breathing and had to be rushed to hospital where she was placed in an induced coma as medical staff fought to save her life.
While the rest of the club was dealing with the fallout from the "Battle of Brookie" after Manly and Melbourne players engaged in a wild bench-clearing brawl during their now infamous round-25 match, Kite was making a frantic dash across Sydney to be at his cousin's bedside.
"She had had her 21st two days before, so that was a bit of a hairy time," Kite recalled this week.
"She wasn't looking good at one stage, but that night she woke up, so praise God that happened. We were all in there praying for her."
Kite, 29, and Mosiana are close even within their tight-knit extended Tongan clan.
"I remember hearing Brent's voice when I was in the coma," she said yesterday.
"I had my eyes closed but it was like I could see him. Then the next thing I woke up. He was the first person I saw."
Two days earlier, Kite had arranged a surprise for her 21st birthday, bringing her favourite Manly player, winger Will Hopoate, to the party to meet her.
"While she was under, I said to her, 'Don't make me bring Hoppa in here to look at you with tubes up your nose'. When she woke up, she said she remembered that and us praying for her."
Kite said even winning a second grand final with Manly on Sunday would not match the euphoria he felt when she opened her eyes.
"I don't think it compares to having Na'a back," he said.
"That was awesome."
Mosiana has made a full recovery and has attended every one of Manly's finals games to cheer on her cousin and his team. She said she wouldn't miss Sunday night's match.
For them, it will be a celebration of life and family as much
"She has a new lease on life," Kite said. "Being a Christian, you like to think you have a pretty level head about most things and have a good grip on life, but there are definitely times when there are deaths or traumas like this when you have a little think about where you are at and what's important in life. Footy at the end of the day is just a part of it.
"For the extended family, it's been a time for them to take stock as well and just remember what's important to them."
Kite, who stands 193cm tall and weighs 110kg, is as much a tower of strength for Manly as he is for his family. This will be his third grand final with the club. The former Test prop was there when the Sea Eagles lost in 2007 and was the man of the match when they demolished Melbourne 40-0 the following year.
"There's definitely fond memories from that, but on the flipside we also lost a grand final in '07 and the contrast is pretty great, so I definitely want that winning feeling," he said.