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Tigers' Super Rugby convert finds balance on NRL path

George Clarke -

The challenge of switching from Super Rugby to the NRL is nothing compared to the battle with anxiety and depression new Wests Tigers winger Solomon Alaimalo has had to overcome.

Alaimalo made his NRL debut for the Tigers against Brisbane last week and has retained his spot for Saturday's meeting with Canterbury.

Prior to 2024, the 28-year-old, who played Super Rugby with the Chiefs and Highlanders, had only featured in one game of league, turning out in an amateur game back in his hometown of Christchurch.

But adapting to the NRL seems small fry when compared to the internal struggles Alaimalo had to overcome earlier on in his professional career.

The winger went public with his diagnosis in 2021, revealing how poor performances would lead to suicidal thoughts.

"That was probably a low point and I realised I had to get the help I needed," Alaimalo told AAP.

"I had so much on my mind, I wanted to share how I was feeling.

"I didn't know how to express my feelings, but I've found something that works.

"In the early stage of my career I'd take a lot of my baggage home and I've come to realise footy is a big part of my life, but not my whole life."

Alaimalo says he has received psychological help and believes it has helped him understand how to find a balance in life.

"That brought up some stuff from my childhood that had a big impact on why I was the way I was," Alaimalo explained.

The winger took those steps before doors began to open for him in the NRL.

The New Zealander was an avid follower of both codes, singling out Tigers coach Benji Marshall and former Warriors fullback Brent Webb as his earliest idols.

"My old man loved State of Origin, he loved Joey Johns and had a NSW jersey and from there … I started supporting Queensland," Alaimalo said.

"When I hang up the boots I didn't want to be sat there with any regrets for not taking an opportunity like this one.

"I caught up with a few of my old Super Rugby mates and they are asking, 'What's it like to be coached by Benji?'

"I knew it was going to be challenging but you've got to make sure you're patient and soak everything in."

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George Clarke - AAP

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