Frank Winterstein travels a long way to resume NRL career with Manly Sea Eagles
Nick Walshaw, The Daily Telegraph
February 25, 2017 6:00am
FRANK Winterstein travels 200km just to train.
Likely, an NRL record.
His daily commute from his home in Campbelltown to Manly headquarters at Narrabeen consumes three, sometimes four hours return — and more when he drops mum, Opeta, to work in Marrickville.
And still, this isn’t his greatest journey.
“First time in the NRL, yeah, I was just a little kid,’’ the Sea Eagles forward said with a laugh. “Some of the younger guys here at Manly, they don’t even know I’ve played before.”
And to be fair, did you?
When Winterstein runs out for Manly this year, he will finally end the longest push to reach double figures in NRL games.
An incredible pilgrimage which, for this 2004 Australian Schoolboy, has already consumed eight years, seven jerseys, three sports and a dozen countries across Europe and Asia.
Since leaving the game after his rookie season with Canterbury in 2008, Winterstein has not only visited destinations like Tokyo, Greece and Spain, but learned to speak Japanese, trialled for the Olympics, even become a father to son Ziggy, now 15 months.
Played some footy too.
The Samoan international made over 100 English Super League appearances with Wakefield, Widnes and Crusaders before switching to Japanese rugby for two years with Kintetsu Liners.
Then last year, Winterstein returned home for a crack at the Australian rugby sevens squad. A move which led to him missing out on Rio but he did find Manly assistant coach, John Cartwright — and a return to the NRL.
“As a kid, Carty coached me at the Roosters,’’ Winterstein explained. “I was arriving for sevens training one morning and, with the Manly offices right next door at Narrabeen, we bumped into each other.
“Carty was shocked to see me — had no idea what I’d been doing. So after that we’d occasionally catch up and eventually he called my agent saying ‘look, if Frank misses the Olympics, we could use him’.”
And so, when Winterstein missed selection with the sevens squad on a Friday last July, he signed immediately with Manly.
Not only back at Narrabeen on the Monday morning, but eventually lifting his NRL appearances from five to eight.
“So it’s been a journey,’’ the 30-year-old laughed. “Initially, my plan was to go overseas for a few months and gain experience ... but that was eight years ago.”
So who cares about another 200km each day, right?
Quizzed on the decision to live in Campbelltown, he explained that apart from housing his own young family — which includes partner Taylor and son Ziggy — he has also taken in mum, dad and little brother Jacob, a Canterbury SG Ball player.
Oh, yeah ... Taylor’s parents own the home next door, too.
“And having everyone together, it’s really important to me,’’ Winterstein said. “Having been overseas so long, Taylor and I have missed so many birthdays, so many weddings and family gatherings.
“Our journey, I wouldn’t change it for anything. We’ve been able to see and experienced so much.
“But to finally be back home, to have all our families here together, it really is priceless.”
8 things you don’t know about Frank Winterstein ...
- Grew up in the same church as fellow Manly forward Marty Taupau and boasts a pair of hands, clasped in prayer, inked on his neck.
- Played in the same Australian Schoolboys side as Greg Inglis, Jarrod Mullen and new Sea Eagles No.6 Blake Green.
- Wife Taylor previously worked as a Wests Tigers receptionist.
- Often arrives at Manly training an hour early to beat Sydney’s traffic.
- Says the worst thing about English Super League is “the mental preparation required to train in snow”.
- Played the 2013 World Cup for Samoa, but got injured in the opening game against New Zealand.
- In Osaka, was famous for demolishing the 100 yen Sushi trains. “Even with tax that’s only a dollar per plate ... I’d smash about 40 then go back again in the afternoon”.
- Cousin of Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein and former New Zealand forward Willie Poching.