Our Members - Their Stories

Making an impact on and off the field

28 Jun 2023

Seeing someone get “smashed” on the rugby league field leads to Daley Manu’s dream becoming a reality.

By Melanie Louden

Daley, pictured with his wife Cecilia and their son McGregor, is a proud family man.

Daley Manu has achieved his dream. In fact, he’s achieved a number of them. So now he’s helping others reach theirs.

The 34-year-old plays rugby league for Whutupōro Rīki Whaikaha o Aotearoa – Physical Disability Rugby League NZ (PDRLNZ).

He’s also a graphic designer, owns a clothing label, runs a non-profit organisation, has worked as a mentor in youth justice, and he’s a loving husband and committed father.

Next on his list is to establish a young men’s mentoring programme where he can “help them think outside the box to solve life’s problems”. 

Daley was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was an infant after he missed developmental milestones. 

“I accepted CP at a very young age, and felt there was no satisfaction or fulfillment in seeking out the cause of my CP. I only see it as God’s plan for me, as without CP I would not be the person I am today, the person my wife fell in love with or the person my son calls Dad.” 

Despite a love of rugby league that saw him playing with his brother and friends in the backyard as a young lad, Daley’s entry into a league team came later in life.

Daley Manu is living his rugby league dream.

Growing up with Cerebral Palsy, which affects his leg muscles, common sense told him “it wouldn’t be the brightest idea for me to put my small fragile frame through rugby league games”.

His family was very supportive, always telling him “you can do anything you put your mind to”, and an uncle who would always tell him, “hey boy, you will be on that field one day”.

“One day” came in 2018, not long after the then 30-year-old Tokoroa resident stumbled across rugby league footage of a game between New Zealand and Australia.

“The clip was a New Zealand player absolutely smashing the Aussie guy straight off the kick off. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the title said Physical Disability Rugby League. 

“I thought to myself, I love rugby league, I could get smashed like that.”

Daley reached out to the New Zealand team and got an invitation to join them for training.

The following week Daley, his wife Cecilia and their young son McGregor, drove up to Auckland.

“This day would forever change my life because I realised this dream was now becoming a reality. I was now part of the PDRLNZ whanau.”

Daley has gone on to represent New Zealand and the Cook Islands but says the highlight of his career so far was attending the inaugural Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup, in the UK in 2022.

“We would come off second best with a silver medal. But we left our mark on the world, and I got to etch my name in the sporting history books by scoring the first try of the first tournament.”

Daley and the NZ team claimed silver at the Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup.

Daley says rugby league has opened many doors for him, “which I would never have had without taking that first step into the unknown”.

Among the opportunities that have come his way is being able to set up a non-profit organisation called Reach Your Potential Movement (RYPM).

Daley and a childhood friend, Casey Calder, pictured below, who both come from “humble beginnings”, set it up in 2018 with the aim of recirculating rugby boots from one community to another.

“We talked about how many kids lose the dream of sports careers due to the raising costs of sports fees and equipment, and also being part of a family with more than one or two future sports stars in the same household.

“Be that family struggling or not, we wanted to create a network of recirculated sports equipment that was no longer needed or forgotten about, that another kid could benefit from.”

RYPM now works with families in Tokoroa, Whitianga and Auckland. 

“The most rewarding impact I have personally seen is …. parents telling me they don’t have to break their kids’ hearts by explaining they won’t be able to play because of the financial cost of boots for all of them to participate.

“Little things like that remind me why we started this movement.”

Daley says playing league helped him overcome anxieties and depression and he has a “massive amount of pride” for what the sport has helped him achieve.

“But nothing will ever top coming off the field, or home from the World Cup, and hearing my son say ‘wow, that’s my daddy’.”

This article was originally published in the May to August 2023 edition of The Review magazine.


For more information:
Melanie Louden
Communications Manager
Mobile: 022 087 8191