Junior To'o tuning up for finals with Lake Macquarie

JUNIOR To’o spent Tuesday auditioning for the next series of reality TV show The Voice.

On Saturday, the barnstorming No.8 hopes to help secure Lake Macquarie their first finals appearance since they were promoted to Premier Rugby in 2002.

Music and rugby are two very different worlds, but To’o has been passionate about both for as long as he can remember.

Born in Samoa, the 29-year-old grew up in a musical household.

‘‘My uncles are singers. They came through the church and got me into it,’’ he said. ‘‘Next thing I’m singing in front of people. It is a real love of mine and my brothers.

‘‘We get together and sing all the time.’’

To’o narrowly missed out on making the top 12 in Australian Idol in 2007.

He was playing rugby for Parramatta at the time. His success was enough for him to give rugby away for a period and concentrate on music.

‘‘I did the Idol thing in 2007,’’ he said. ‘‘I got a lot of exposure but didn’t make it as far as I wanted.

‘‘I gave up footy for a couple of years to pursue my music.

‘‘I sang with [American hip-hop band] Bone Thugs-n-Harmony at a gig and ended up in the VIP section with Chris Brown. That was pretty good.’’

Rugby could just as easily have been a career path for the 110-kilogram, 188-centimetre back-rower.

A junior representative player, he turned down a contract at French club Toulon and also had opportunities at the Queensland Reds and ACT Brumbies.

To’o was back in Auckland last year with Ray Allo when the opportunity came up at Lake Macquarie.

‘‘I went back to play a bit of footy with Ray and was going to sign with North Harbour,’’ he said. ‘‘But my kids were in Sydney, and with Newcastle being close and the fact I knew [Roos coach] Danny Maiava from playing for Sydney Samoa, I came up here.

‘‘It has been great. I’m working as a wardsman at Toronto Private Hospital and living by the lake at Bolton Point.

‘‘The lifestyle is good and I am also enjoying the rugby.

‘‘The standard is pretty high and there are some real good players in this competition.

‘‘Lake Macquarie signed us to help turn things around.

‘‘I don’t know whether it was self-belief but we have a number of the same players as last year and they are playing really well.

‘‘Maybe we have given them a bit of motivation and direction. Obviously it is do-or-die this week against Wanderers.

‘‘Regardless, we we are going to stick together. I see myself and a few of the new boys settling down here.’’

To’o has kept in tune by played a few gigs locally and in Sydney for a bit of extra cash. That had been the extent of it until he came across the advertisement for The Voice.

‘‘I decided to give it one more shot,’’ he said.

‘‘The initial audition is online. I sat at home Tuesday, sang a song and sent it through.’’

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