a really nice story and one that I have a personal connection to. Good work Sean.
Meaney by name - softie by nature
Formidable team…Sophie Delezio and Sean Meaney at training. Picture: Adam Ward Source: The Daily Telegraph
THREE minutes and one hit-up. That’s the statistical culmination of Sean Meaney’s NRL career.
But look below the surface - preferably of a certain backyard pool on Sydney’s Northern Beaches - and there you’ll find the true measure of the Tigers’ fullback-in-waiting.
When he’s not working overtime to break out of NSW Cup feeder side Balmain Ryde-Eastwood, Meaney is the man who brings joy to inspirational burns survivor Sophie Delezio.At least once a week, the swim instructor spends an hour in the pool with arguably Australia’s most special nine-year-old, whose recovery from a nursery fire and subsequent car accident left the entire country in awe.
And in less than three years since their sessions began, Delezio has gone on to become the state 50m freestyle champion in her disability category.
“I didn’t meet Sophie until after the accidents, but the physios said swimming was really good because she could have movement in the water that she couldn’t otherwise get,” Meaney, 23, said.
“The more she gets in the water the happier she is, but she’s just been so positive from the moment I met her.”
Before his NRL debut against the Bulldogs in round 13, Meaney had bided his time for four seasons in the lower grades - at Manly and then the Tigers. He said Delezio’s “never-say-die” attitude - and handmade birthday and Christmas cards - had helped fuel his rugby league dream.
“The first time I watched her swim in a race, it was pretty amazing,” the Harbord junior said. "She had to dive off the side and swim the whole way. She wants to win everything.
"She’s just so competitive, racing against me and her older brother in the pool at home.“From her attitude, you could never tell what she’s had to go through.”
The sad part of this story is that should Meaney finally get the chance to become a fulltime player, he’ll have less time to continue Delezio’s lessons. His selection in the NSW residents side for Wednesday’s Origin curtainraiser suggests keen judges are beginning to take notice.
“It would be a little bit hard to leave, but the swim school understands my position and priority to make it in rugby league,” Meaney said. “It’s something I really love doing and would always come back to.”
I had the fortune or mis-fortune i suppose depending on how you look at it to be there that day as we lived just up the road and was helping to pull the kids out of the fire.
I will never forget the noise of the fire alarm and screaming as the long as a live. Kids are amazingly brave and resiliant and as a parent of 4 I pray each day to be as fortunate as I am.