THERE was a sigh of relief when Isoa Waqa finally called home while on the run from prison.
His parents had been praying for him to give himself up and return to jail where he was sent to reform himself for the violent robberies he committed.
For Etuate Waqa, it was a difficult time. He had just returned from Nuku'alofa with more good news for his family about the perks of his new job as national sevens director with the Tonga Rugby Union and celebrate with them the success of his son with the Melbourne Storm, Sisa Waqa.
All his struggles through life were finally paying off and he wanted to share with his family. But Isoa — one of five men who broke out of the Naboro maximum facility — was the overriding factor in their home.
The former national sevens coach said he was upset and at pains for his son.
It was not all the young man's fault.
"Every parent does not want their kids to be in jail," he said.
"It's a painful thing to see the ones who you struggle for taking the wrong turn in life."
His other son, Gabby, is behind bars for the same reason.
Waqa said he still had hopes for his sons and would continue to pray like he does daily for their future.
Just before he was recaptured on Tuesday, Isoa, 30, phoned home and asked his family to forgive him for bringing them disrepute.
"He called my wife and said sorry for all the stupid things that he has done," Waqa, a native of Waitovu in Ovalau, told The Fiji Times.
"He did all those stupid things fully comprehending the consequences that will follow.
"We, as his family, forgive him and will always love him."
While Isoa is recovering from injuries he sustained during his recapture, Sisa has vowed to put on his best show for his brothers when the Melbourne Storm takes on the Bulldogs in this weekend's NRL grand final.
Waqa said Sisa — who this week revealed to his fans how his family's struggle inspired his ever-improving game — overcame the difficult life he came through and he was proud of him.
The struggle started in Waqa's childhood while growing up the then notorious suburb of Toorak in the 1960s and 1970s.
"Toorak was full of crime and inhumane things. You grow up seeing all these happening around you and it makes you tough in order for you to survive."
It was harder with one eye. While in Class One, he injured his right eye while playing rugby.
"At the age of 19, I made up my mind that I had to take seriously what I was doing best and it was rugby. I thought then I could make a living off it for my survival but it never happened overnight. It was a patient process but I was passionate about it."
At that same age, he met his wife, got married and they decided to have a family even though they did not have much to fall on. The family moved to Nadera, Nasinu, where they now reside.
"A lot of people I knew were going into jail and at the same also a lot of my mates were prospering around me. I thought to myself, 'my interest was always in rugby, if I was to be serious with it I would have to carry it forward with me and see what it would offer me."
The birth of his children brought joy into the home when the going was tough for the single breadwinner in the home.
"I love my children. Isoa, Gabby and Sisa are my beautiful boys and I also have two beautiful daughters. The day they arrived, they were a blessing to my family. We had hopes for all of them. We had dreams.
"But the struggling continued to become part of our life. We lived through hard times. We lived with my other brothers also in the same house. Everyone was trying very hard to fend for themselves."
They were about 20 of them under a three-bedroom roof.
"I kept believing myself to keep on playing and work hard, to reach my full potential and find ways to put bread on the table. At the same while I was struggling, the family was struggling also. There was not enough all the time.
"The kids were affected by it and by the very environment we lived in.
"These were some of the contributing factors in the lives of my children."
Waqa said he and his wife had little choice.
"There are some processes in life that we all go through. Unfortunately that's how ours have been. Although I had no real skills to help me survive in life, I had my rugby and my family.
"We have been trying very hard to keep the children close-knit and intact in the family all the time. I think that happens to everyone also. Coming from a home where all effort is made to keep them straight and then see them go out into the environment where there is a lot of peer pressure and where they explore what they can't do at home. It just becomes uncontrollable.
"Their actions can't be managed from in the home where they are raised."
Waqa said despite all the hardships they never lost hope.
After playing his first union international against Tonga in Nuku'alofa in 1988, doors of opportunities began to open for him and his family.
In 1992, Waqa joined the famous members of the victorious three-in-a-row Hong Kong Sevens winners - Noa Nadruku, Pauliasi Tabulutu and Alivereti Dere - in the exodus to rugby league.
Playing abroad in search of better income meant he had to leave his family behind.
He joined Top End Raiders in the 92-93 season after playing for the Fiji Bati then moved to the Dragons.
When his playing days ended, Waqa joined the Fiji Rugby Union as its development officer. Isoa went to jail, so did Gabby after playing for the junior Fiji Bati.
Sisa found himself the odd one out in his neighbourhood after he became a policeman.
Under his father's guidance, he tried harder and finally got his breakthrough with the Roosters before joining the Melbourne Storm in the big-paying NRL.
All this while dad's coaching ability was finally recognised. He was named assistant coach for the national team and worked hard in the shadows of coach Dere.
He was the best candidate for the hefty salary the Tongans offered for their sevens teams.
"When I look back, I can only thank God for all the blessings that he continued to pour on my family even when not all things were going right.
"God gave me a talent and I've been recognised with what I've been doing with it. I've reached all the levels that one dreams about in rugby.
"Now my son Sisa is coming through the ranks in the NRL. God has been good."
Part of Sisa's earnings now adds to what dad earns for their home.
Both their thoughts are always on the brothers and sons behind bars.
"I still believe that despite all that happens in a family, no one should lose hope.
He takes comfort from one of his favourite Bible verses - Jeremaiah 29:11 - which his mother, a devout Christian, made him learn. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future:
It's a verse he recites and believes will help give his children the motivation in life.
"To come through a hard life, to lose an eye, struggle to raise your family and feed them, this is what keeps me going all the time.
"Every day we pray for my two sons in jail. That God gives them hope and a plan for their lives, a future for them. It is for them to realise this. Once that happens, and they understand the potential of the different gifts they have, I have hope that they'll reach out for it.
"Every parent works hard every day to put smiles on the faces on their children. "Sometimes we can be happy, sometimes we can be sad
"We can only pick up from where we last left off and strive forward."
For him and Sisa, that's all they'll be doing. In this weekend's NRL grand final for the Storm and in the IRB World Sevens for Tonga, the Waqas will be hard at work for the boys who got left behind.