Ex-Ipswich schoolboy Auva'a set for NRL decider
KIRISOME Auva'a is in his rookie NRL year for the Rabbitohs but the pressure of Sunday's grand final will be like water off a duck's back.
The former Ipswich Grammar School student has been an explosive force at left centre for the Rabbitohs, where he is set to mark Canterbury gun Tim Lafai.
The 22-year-old former debt collector will be part of a South Sydney side aiming to be break a 43-year premiership drought, but Ipswich Grammar School director of boarding John Beaumont said Auva'a would not be burdened by the weight of history.
In two years of playing First XV rugby, Beaumont said Auva'a proved himself oblivious to expectation.
"He is never overawed by anything," Beaumont said.
"Kirisome just loves it. The tougher it is, the more you will get out of him.
"At schoolboy level, every week is a grand final. He is used to the pressure. It is water off a duck's back.
"Because he was expected to fire so regularly with us, he'll lap it up."
Ipswich Jets co-coach Shane Walker, who played 67 NRL games with the Rabbitohs in a 149-game career, agreed.
"Young fellas don't have fear," Walker said.
"Kirisome has no fear of the occasion or a fear of failure. He is a young bloke on the up so he hasn't had his confidence knocked around by a lack of form.
"He is in a team playing great footy so he is at the peak of his powers. He's just loving life."
Auva'a was identified as a future rugby union loose forward in the mould of former Wallaby star Willie Ofahengaue when he came to the school.
But he was so dynamic, Ipswich Grammar played him at fullback with great success.
"He was always very strong and hard to pull down," Beaumont said.
"When he chimed into the backline and made the extra man, which he used to do regularly, it would end up in a try.
"He would always bend the opposition backline and then unload it. He is just a wrecking machine. He loves to run at anything and be in the middle of everything.
"We were thinking about playing him as a loose forward but he was so dynamic and needed space, we ended up playing him at fullback."
Auva'a reminds Walker of former Kiwi international David Fa'alogo, who came to Souths as a centre before moving into the forwards, a path Auva'a may well follow.
His rugby background is also evident in the way Souths have used him.
"They hit him quite a few times early the other night against the Roosters with a rugby union inside-centre crash ball," Walker said.
"He is obviously a very big presence in the centres where he'll be marking Tim Lafai, and that could well be one of the feature clashes of the grand final.
"It will be the clash of two young tearaways.
"Auva'a is 100 kilos … a big, powerful, fast thing running at you. That is a nightmare. That will keep any little halfback up at night.
"Then Greg Inglis pops out the back and you've got to contend with his big jousting stick fend."