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Who is… Tendai Mzungu?

Who is... Tendai Mzungu? Get to know our very own Tendai Mzungu as he talks about family and life after footy.
Tendai Mzungu of the Dockers in action during the 2013 AFL Round 13 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium, Perth on June 23, 2013. (Photo: Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)
Tendai Mzungu in action
Born in Melbourne on 28 February 1986, to a Zimbabwean father and an Australian mother, Tendai Mzungu spent the first nine years of his life in the Victorian capital.

His first name, Tendai, means ‘be thankful’, but the meaning of his surname often raises an eyebrow or two.

The true meaning of Mzungu is ‘the spirit’, but in Zimbabwe, his surname more commonly means a ‘white person’.

Tendai can’t recall too much of what happened in his formative years, which includes his parents’ separation.

“I don’t remember an awful lot of them together,” he says.

His father, Simon, moved to the Gold Coast, while mother, Susan, relocated back to Western Australia, her home state with Tendai and his brother.

Tendai describes his relationship with his father as “great”, albeit distant.

“He’s always supported me, we do speak and he loves my footy and follows me, always has,” Tendai says.

Tall with large dreads and a distinctive accent, Tendai describes his dad as a man who stands out in a crowd.

“He has a really friendly nature and he’s likable,” he says.

“He’s warm person who attracts a lot of attention.”

Simon is also quite intelligent, having just finished his thesis to complete a PhD.

“He’s been studying pretty much his whole life,” Tendai says.

The pair shared a special moment at Adelaide’s AAMI Stadium in round 9 of the 2011 AFL season – Tendai’s debut for Fremantle.

Proud father Simon was present to see his son’s dream come true.

“That was really special,” Tendai says.

“It was the first game he’d seen in a long time. We’ve played on the Gold Coast a couple of times and he’s come into the rooms then, too.”

Mzungu has an older brother named Tapiwa, a civil engineer who has recently become engaged.

Tendai says Tapiwa got dad’s brains. He calls their relationship early on as “love-hate”.

“I was a bit annoying,” Tendai admits.

“I was always in his face. He had to flex his muscles at times and put me back in my place.

“As we grew older and matured, we became a lot closer and understood each other more.”

Tapiwa is not Tendai’s only sibling. He has a half-brother and half-sister from his father’s next relationship.

While he has not had a lot to do with either of them, a relationship exists is both cases, more so with his half-sister.

“I had a bit to do with my step-brother when I was young,” Tendai says.

“My step-sister is almost as tall as me and has just hit her teens. It’s been nice to build a relationship with her.”

Tendai considers his mum, Susan, as the biggest influence on his life.

"She predominantly did the raising of me and my brother,” he says.

“I can’t speak highly enough of her. She’s been there for the ups and downs and I do owe her a lot.”

Tendai attended Kent Street High in Perth’s southern suburbs.

He describes himself as “a bit cheeky’ during his early education.

“I’ve probably given my teachers a bit of grief at times,” he says.

“I was always laughing at the back and having a good time, but my grades were at an ok level.

“I probably didn’t excel as well as I could.”

He tried tennis in year 8, just to get out of economics, but took a greater liking to cricket. Tendai was an all-rounder, because doing just one of batting or bowling was “boring”.

His Gary Coleman ‘afro’ provided classmates with ample entertainment – more so the boys.

“I used to comb the hair up to get a bit of a laugh – didn’t do much with the girls but the boys loved it,” he says.

Tendai’s true calling was football, and it was at amateur club Trinity Aquinas that he began his climb up the grades.

“I used to love it down there,” he says.

“I have great memories with my teammates. We won a grand final and, from league through to colts, there was a real strong bond.”

Reaching the highest level of football has left Tendai incredibly proud of his accomplishments.

But there are a few more items on his to-do list which he’d like to tick off after his AFL days are over.

One of those is returning to his WAFL club, the Perth Demons, where he was best and fairest in 2010 before being drafted to Freo.

“I’d love to go back to Perth and play 100 games for the Demons, I’m 27 games off, I think,” he says.

He would also love to visit Zimbabwe, to see his heritage, first-hand.

“I’ve never been,” Tendai says.

“It’s something I want to do, but it’s a tough one, with when to go.

“It’s obviously a little unstable at the moment.

“I’d love to go with my dad one day and he can show me where he grew up.”

Tendai completed a sports science degree soon after he joined Fremantle, but he wants to be a physical education teacher one day.

He’s well on the way to finishing the tertiary studies to accomplish that goal, currently undertaking a diploma of education and working with Wesley College’s football team and sports department.

“I want to eventually end up at a school and try and influence kids and give them the same love of sport that I have,” he says.

“Teach them good morals and things like that.”

For the time being, Tendai Mzungu will continue pursuing excellence with the Fremantle Dockers.