Storm ace quits to take up Mormon mission
MELBOURNE Storm utility back Young Tonumaipea has sensationally quit the club to take up a two year Mormon mission in Berlin.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the 25-year-old fronted coach Craig Bellamy on Monday asking to be released from the final year and a half of his contract as he wanted to follow his faith.
Tonumaipea will forfeit more than $200,000 when he cuts short his Storm deal.
It is understood Tonumaipea will help the club get through the State of Origin period before leaving for Germany after Origin III on July 11.
Storm boss Dave Donaghy confirmed Tonumaipea's impending departure.
"There was a lot of listening from our end as opposed to a discussion about it," Donaghy said on Wednesday.
"Young came to see us the other day and let us know he was going to embark on a mission for two years. From our point of view he goes with our blessing. I take my hat off to him.
"I said this to him that he might not see but it is a courageous decision given how hard he has worked to forge a career in rugby league, particularly as a Victorian kid.
"When you're in a team environment, I couldn't imagine how difficult internally it would've been for Young knowing how selfless he is. As Young told me it's the right decision for him. We are very proud of him that he has had the strength to make the decision."
Canterbury's Will Hopoate was at the peak of his powers when he walked away for two seasons in 2012-13 while backrower Lagi Setu only added nine more games to his once blossoming career when he too undertook a Mormon mission at the end of Brisbane's 2010 season.
Donaghy said Tonumaipea would be welcomed back to the Storm with open arms.
"He is only 25," Donaghy said.
"He said he doesn't want to let himself go when he is overseas. He has devoted himself to his footy over the last seven years since he has been in our system and forged a career. I have total respect for him for making the decision that's very important to him.
"If he wants to come back I'm sure he will keep himself in good nick and he has plenty of footy left in him when his two years is completed."
The Samoan-born Tonumaipea became just the second Storm junior to play first grade when he made his NRL debut in 2014. He has gone on to play 40 games including their last start win to North Queensland.
The Storm have the bye this weekend but Tonumaipea will be available for the next clash against Brisbane on June 10.
"He has been a real shining light for our Victorian kids coming through," Donaghy said.
"We have some exciting players playing rugby league in Victoria at the junior level. For them to see Young having played quite a bit of NRL is an inspiration.
"He is a real selfless kid. A real hard worker and he hates letting anyone down. There would've been that feeling within himself that he might feel like the boys or the club might think they are letting them or us down. He certainly is not."