Long, hard road to top for Auva'a
IT has been some journey to the big time for Kirisome Auva'a.
Born in Samoa, the 22-year-old Rabbitohs centre grew up on the tough streets of South Auckland before moving to Australia where he attended Ipswich Grammar School.
Now he will line up for South Sydney in the biggest game of his life in Sunday's NRL grand final clash with Canterbury.
Ipswich Jets co-coach Shane Walker, a former Rabbitohs star, said Auva'a's initial upbringing is no doubt a strong reason why he plays with no fear.
"Dave Fa'alogo came to Souths from South Auckland, and you can get stabbed for sneezing in South Auckland. You've got to be tough," Walker said.
"So to charge into a couple of little centres and wingers in a game of footy after having to tangle with Uncle Bully most of his life, he's not going to be too worried."
Auva'a played First XV at fullback at school and for Norths Tigers in league after hours.
He was chased by Brisbane first grade rugby clubs but was picked up by the Melbourne Storm where he played 20s.
He has supplemented his league work by a stint as a debt collector.
Off the field, he has found some trouble with the law. He pleaded guilty to recklessly causing injury and criminal damage earlier this year.
Ipswich Grammar School director of boarding John Beaumont says he has had "ups and downs" like many young men.
"He is a good kid at heart," Beaumont said..
"He wasn't super academic, but he was always very loyal with a strong sense of team."
Ipswich Grammar came by Auva'a by chance.
"We didn't chase him at all," Beaumont said.
"He had no scholarships or anything like that. He wanted to go to a decent school and play some good rugby.
"The coaches told him he needed to develop a sense of urgency. He'd get involved for five minutes and then we'd never see him again.
"He'd pick his time and whenever he'd chime into the backline, he would be as damaging as all get out.
"He played two years of firsts for us, GPS firsts and the last year he played Queensland Schoolboys Twos rugby union."
Auva'a continues the fine tradition of Ipswich Grammar students to have played NRL
"We've had Berrick Barnes, Junior Sau, Lama Tasi, Martin Kennedy, the Walters brothers, Paul Hauff and Willie Carne all attend the school," Beaumont said.
"We are the only GPS school that enables our kids to play league for clubs outside of school. Now we have a strong attachment to Norths Tigers, where Allan Langer played."