‘I fear no man but God’: pint-sized Tiger ready to slay another giant
By Adrian Proszenko Updated13 March 2018 — 7:41pm
first published at 6:45pm
In preparing for life after football, which almost began three years ago when he couldn’t even earn a Super League contract, Pita Godinet took the first steps towards a career as a commercial pilot. There has subsequently been plenty of turbulence in both his footy and flying careers. When asked to nominate which is scarier – sitting in the cockpit or putting the NRL’s smallest frame in front of the likes of Saturday’s opponents, Storm behemoths Sam Kasiano and Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Godinet doesn’t hesitate. “That’s easy,” Godinet grinned. “You can control the aircraft.”
During the off-season, Godinet landed at Wests Tigers. Of all the big-name arrivals and departures, Godinet is the least heralded. His career appeared to be over when, at the end of his two-year stint at Wakefield Trinity in 2015, he couldn’t attract any further interest in the Super League. “It’s a business at the end of the day, but I’m a man of faith and my calling was to come back,” Godinet said.
The former Warrior chose to resettle at Manly to be close to his wife’s family. He ended up scoring a contract to play reserve grade for the Sea Eagles and managed to add two first-grade games to his tally over the next two seasons, taking the total to 20. Not once, in an NRL career that started back in 2011, has the utility started a game. However, Corey Thompson wasn’t the only diminutive Tiger to impress Ivan Cleary over the summer and Godinet ran out wearing the No.9 jersey made famous by Robbie Farah in last weekend’s upset of the Roosters. “It was nerve-wracking, it was like having my debut again,” he said. “It was a special moment for me and my family.” So how does he do it? How can a man standing just 171cm and 81kg make it in the NRL? “I fear no man but God,” Godinet said. “I guess it’s just heart really, it comes down to desire. My mental focus. I love to go out there and do what I do, play footy. It’s all heart and desire for me.”
Many view Godinet as a stop-gap solution. Regular hooker Jacob Liddle is still overcoming off-season surgeries, Josh Reynolds will return from a hamstring injury in coming weeks and, like his stint in England, there is no guarantee there will be a new contract waiting for Godinet when his current one expires. But the Samoan international is living proof that you’re not too small to make it in the greatest game of all. His reward is an opportunity to slay another giant on Saturday night at AAMI Park. Godinet will mark up against Immortal-in-waiting Cameron Smith, the Melbourne, Queensland and Australian captain. Perhaps the greatest the game has ever seen.
Godinet already has a fond memory from an encounter with Smith, following a Four Nations match between Australia and Samoa in 2014. “I’ve got his jersey,” Godinet said. “I was hesitant, everyone had swapped their jerseys (after the game). I was looking and he was doing an interview. “I saw him in the middle and he still had his jersey on and he was walking back. I walked up to him and was like ‘oh shucks’, but he was ‘yeah, sweet.’” What happened next best exemplifies the difference in the stature of the men, figuratively and literally. “He couldn’t fit in my jumper,” Godinet said.
“He’s like ‘Oooh, this is a tight squeeze’. I said ‘yours fits sweet.’ “Obviously he’s the best player in the game today. To have his jersey at home, I want to frame it soon and tell everyone it’s Cam Smith’s jersey.”
In coming to the Tigers, Godinet’s career has come full circle, reuniting with the coach who gave him a start at the Warriors. Perhaps even greater journeys are in store when he takes the controls of planes rather than footy sides. He was initially hired to take flight by another footballer-cum-pilot, former Cowboys and Bulldogs utility Ben Harris, and is close to clocking the flying hours required to become a commercial pilot. “I love the adrenalin,” Godinet said. “You see the movies, all these crashes and stuff, but that’s the last thing on my mind. I like challenges, to test myself and see where I’m at physically and mentally.”