Prayer and Chicken: Brian To’o’s Secret Weapons to Take to the Pitch This Week
Brian To’o and his Penrith Panther teammates only need to win one more game to play in the NRL Grand Final this year – and they have a tough competition ahead. But first, the beloved Christian winger prays for God to heal his ankle.
To’o missed last week’s semi-final game against the Parramatta Eels with a lingering injury. On Saturday, Penrith will face the league’s minor premiers, the Melbourne Storm, in a preliminary final. The Storm beat Penrith in last year’s grand final, and most people expect them to win on Saturday.
Even with injury issues, To’o has had a stellar season.
The 23-year-old has averaged nearly 250 yards per game in running yards – which is the league’s first and 30 yards longer than next best player, Manly’s Tom Trbojevic. The NRL didn’t start keeping track record statistics until 2013, but during that time no one had a higher average than To’o.
This year, To’o debuted in State of Origin. This week, Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga said the spot in the national representative would be his if he chose to represent Australia.
Oh, and the last time To’o played he scored a hat-trick.
So it’s easy to see why Penrith fans are praying that his ankle is healed and he can go out on the pitch.
âIt’s inspiring in every game to see Brian and the boys show God the glory before and after every game. We believe Brian and all injured players will make a full recovery and we’ll see them close the deal this weekend, âsaid Penrith supporter Bec said, adding that she also liked what Brett Naden, who replaced To ‘o last week, brings to the team.
âBrian To’o has a reputation among the Panthers for his miraculous healing powers,â Joel Gould reported earlier this month. “â¦ It turned out that the power of prayer and a diet described as ‘the worst in NRL’ is the secret to his most recent rapid recovery.”
âPraying is my secretâ – Brian To’o
To’o, 23, had undergone surgery to repair a syndesmosis injury – the second in consecutive seasons. When the youngster was declared fit to play two weeks ahead of schedule, soccer fans asked what the secret to his speedy recovery was.
“He’s a bit of a different breed and has come back from injuries a few times, pretty bad too,” said teammate, close friend and other mischief maker Jarome Luai.
âThat’s probably what he eats. It’s the worst diet in NRL history, but it works for him. Chicken and cheeseâ¦ period. I can’t give any more.
To’o admitted to his “chicken and cheese” diet, but added that he prayed it was his so-called “secret.”
âI didn’t think I would be back so soon, but I prayed for it and I am truly grateful that I was successful. All praise be to God for taking me through this healing process, âhe said.
âPraying is my secret. I’m like Stephen Crichton and Jarome Luai. We are proud of our faith and as long as we keep that faith, we will always do. “
To’o’s open testimony made him a fan favorite of Christian NRL – even those who are not Penrith supporters.
“I love that my boys who play and love the rugby league have role models as positive as Brian and Jerome [Luai]. Eli, who is only 11, is praying for Brian to get better and play this weekend, âsaid Panthers fan Christina, who works at a local church.
“It’s so great to see not only boys in our area playing soccer, but these same boys setting a good example for young people” – Sam, local youth pastor
Earlier this year, sports commentators were delighted to hear that To’o was at church when Blues coach Brad Fitler called to announce the news of his selection in NSW.
âI quickly ran outside. It didn’t have a name on it, so I thought it was like Uber Eats or something, âTo’o told reporters jokingly.
Jokes aside, To’o was grateful to God for the blessing.
âAs soon as I got home, before I started packing, I said a little prayerâ¦ just to thank God for giving me this opportunity,â To’o says.
To’o and his teammates Jarome Luai and Stephen Crichton all grew up playing together in West Sydney and sharing their Christian faith. Crichton’s father, Va’a Crichton, is the pastor of their church, Rooty Hill Assemblies of God.
âIt’s so great to see not only boys from our region playing football, but these same boys who set a good example for young people. We believe in the best on and off the pitch for boys! said Sam, a young pastor from the Penrith area.
To’o has always been open about his Christian faith with the media, even opening up about his Bible study, prayer, and fasting practices.
Last year, he told an AAP reporter that he fasted for seven hours at the start of each day – abstaining from all food and drink, except water – even when ‘he trains.
âIt’s pretty tough for me with training,â To’o said. âI go from 6 am to 1 pm without food or drink. My wife and I try to go two days a week.
He even tried to refrain from drinking water on two occasions, he said.
“But it affected me a little too muchâ¦ So I drink water but I just take that extra hour.”
During last year’s pandemic, when NRL players were kept in a “bubble” – seeing only their families, teammates, and club coaches and staff – To’o, Crichton and Luai came together. are found unable to attend services and to reunite with the rest of their church community. Instead, they got together to study the Bible.
âIt’s difficult,â To’o said at the time. âI told my parents about it and they understood. As long as I stay consistent with everything, pray, and fast. “
While not all Christians are fans of the NRL or supporters of Penrith (this author is not), there is something everyone can love about Brian To’o.
If he’s fit to play this weekend, make sure he sends a kneeling prayer before the game starts. Keep your eyes peeled for the bold “JESUS” written on his bracelets.
And if he doesn’t play, or Penrith doesn’t win, always watch the end of the match. You will see Brian To’o and his Christian teammates forming a circle on the pitch, bowing together in prayer, and thanking God for His blessings.
You might even feel inclined to add your own “Amen.”