'I don't have sympathy for Manu Vatuvei' - Fauono Ken Laban

"I subscribe to the theory that if you do the crime, you do the time. I don't have any sympathy for Manu Vatuvei."

Rugby league commentator Fauono Ken Laban has condemned the actions of former league star Manu Vatuvei, but says part of the responsibility lies with his management team.

Vatuvei was sentenced to three years and seven months earlier this week in Manukau District Court for importing methamphetamine.

"You've got to find the people who failed Manu," says Fauono Ken Laban.

"There's a whole host of things that Manu could've done with his life after football. He could've gotten involved in mental health. He could've gotten involved as an ambassador for young players. He could've been at the forefront of even our vaccination in South Auckland for Pasifika.​"

Fauono says questions must be raised about those who made money off Manu Vatuvei's earnings during his rugby league career.

"Where were they when it really mattered. His so-called management team that had been taking a percentage of his salary and he was on big money at the Warriors. What are we doing to hold them to account? 

"If they knew that he was getting involved in these sorts of activities, what did they do to stop it? What did they do to ensure that there was a life for Manu after his footy?

"These so-called player managers that are involved, if you're going to manage the player, manage them. Don't just take a percentage of negotiating his contract."

Managing the highs and lows of rugby league

Fauono says the biggest challenge in the game of rugby league is managing the highs and lows of the emotion surrounding the game, particularly when it comes to young, talented players.

"We've seen in recent times suicide rates in Australia amongst players that were recruited in the clubs at 16 and 17.

"They were the best players at high school level, then they get scouted, identified, put into an elite system, alongside 50 or 60 similar kids."

It takes "an exceptional player in an exceptional system" in order to find success in professional sports, but Fauono says even that in itself is subjective.

"That's the brutal reality for a lot of this kids. They all want to be Cooper Cronk. They all want to be Sonny Bill Williams. They all want to be Andrew Fifita. 

"I think there's 35 in the elite first-grade squads, but behind that 35, there's another 50 kids in the developmental programme. All those 50 kids want to get into the 35, well they're not going to."

Fauono says rugby league clubs need to work on educating their young players about what happens on and off the field, as well as developing their maturity, both mentally and physically.

However, he doesn't think rugby league is to blame for Manu Vatuvei's downfall.

"He would've been in an environment when he first got identified by the Warriors that there is zero tolerance and no place in the game or in sport for drugs.

"I think our game and sport has been very responsible in those areas and people involved in our game, we need to be a reflection of the community that support us, so I'm disappointed in Manu Vatuvei. I think he's lucky that he only got three and a half years.

"There are so many good things he could've done with his life and with his profile in the game, but hopefully he will get that opportunity after he has three and a half years to reflect in prison on the dilemma that he finds himself in."