When Toby Rudolf became a cult icon for the Sharks after debuting this year, many were shocked at how quickly the 24-year-old managed to make himself a household name in the Shire.
For Rudolf's mum Susan, it was no surprise at all.
Before the Sharks' elimination final match on Saturday night, Rudolf opened up on the reasons he backflipped on the Warriors to stay with his mum in Sydney.
"I was more than happy to go to the Warriors when the deal was done but everything went belly up with the family," he said.
Rudolf's mum was born with an eye condition and is legally blind. His grandmother, Erika, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer shortly after he signed the Warriors contract.
Given the coronavirus pandemic, Rudolf said he needed to stay in Sydney to care for his mother while his older brother, who has since moved back from Bali, could take care of his grandmother.
He also explained how the decision was important for his career, crediting his childhood and close family for the player he is today.
"I grew up in Maroubra in a housing commission estate," he said. "Mum, she raised me by myself, she was a single mum and was everything to me – mum and dad. She was my whole world, she still is."
With Rudolf's mum unable to drive, she and the two boys would go everywhere together.
"We had to walk to the shops, walk to the beach, walk to any footy game," he said. "Any friends that had a car, that's how we'd get around for long-distance trips but usually it was just walking with mum everywhere.
"It's that sort of stuff that builds you into the person I am today and the player I am today as well."
Rudolf said his love for rugby league came watching Roosters games with his "Oma" – grandma – who knew nothing about the rules but loved to watch as well.
"She's still a bit iffy on them [the rules] 10 years later," he said. "She had no idea about footy until I started watching it when I was like eight years old.
"I don't think she'd know the difference if I was coming last or coming first, she's just happy that I am happy."
Having been unable to see her during the pandemic due to the NRL bubble, Rudolph said there would be a small win if the Sharks go out this weekend during the elimination final.
"The first thing I will be doing is seeing my grandma and going to see my cousins, my aunty and brother as well," he said.
Rudolf said the family was unsurprised at his success.
"Mum has been calling me a superstar since I was six years old … she is probably the only one who has known this is going to happen for the last 20 years of my life," he said. "She loves the attention that I get and shares every single post, every single news report.
"I don't have to go looking for stories … they just pop up on our family WhatsApp group."
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