Auva'a declares Kiwi allegiance
Rabbitohs Grand Final hero Kirisome Auva'a has declared his intention to represent New Zealand in the international arena despite being eligible to play for both Australia and Samoa in the upcoming Four Nations tournament.
Auva'a's try in the 73rd minute of the 30-6 win sent the South Sydney faithful into a delirium 43 years in the making but rather than parlaying an extraordinary 12 months into a maiden Test cap with Samoa – his nation of birth – Auva'a said his childhood in Auckland makes the decision very black and white.
"Growing up in Auckland, it was the Blues and the All Blacks and I always wanted to be an All Black," said Auva'a, who represented the Queensland under-18s in 2010 and was 18th man for Queensland in the inaugural under-20s State of Origin in 2012.
"I took a different pathway when I got a bit older and I wouldn't mind playing for the Kiwis. Yeah I was born in Samoa and one day I would like to pull on the blue jersey but for me, growing up in Auckland, you were either All Blacks or Kiwis."
Twelve months ago Kirisome Auva'a was contemplating a career as a body builder. On Sunday he was a crucial cog in the Rabbitohs' 43-year premiership drought.
We can't make this stuff up. And neither is Auva'a.
Twelve months ago he had a NSW Cup title with Cronulla, but couldn’t get a contract with Melbourne, where he'd been putting in the hard yards for four long, often lonely years.
On Sunday night, with 73 minutes elapsed and the Bunnies holding a 14-6 lead, Auva'a found himself cleaning up the scraps from a Greg Inglis cross-field kick and writing his name in the history books.
"It was surreal," Auva'a says of the moment he ensured he'll never have to buy a beer in Redfern for as long as he lives.
"I didn't think I'd score one. But you just never give up on those types of plays because you never know which way the bounce of the ball is going to go. AJ just took off and I thought 'I'll just jog back here just in case' and when it popped up I saw an opportunity and I just grounded it."
It's a hell of ways to come from thinking oils and bench presses. Not to mention the 22-year-old's previous life as a debt collector, a means of keeping the bank balance in the black while earning the minimum with the Storm.
But when nothing came across the table from the Storm's top brass, and his good mates Young Tonumaipea and Mahe Fonua made the grade ahead of him, well he did start to wonder.
"Because I had no deals, towards the end of last year I was telling one of my mates from Melbourne, Young Tonumaipea, I've got the body type, I'll probably become a body builder," Auva'a says.
And then the phone rang.
"It came up as a random number and he says 'it's Michael Maguire'," Auva'a says.
"I had to take anything because I wasn't getting anything. And he spoke about the opportunity that Souths have and how they're thin on outside backs and I thought it'd be a pathway to play regular NRL games. And I just took a punt.
"But when I didn't get named in that Round 1 team, I had a lot of head noise going through and I gave Sammy (Burgess) a call, and he said 'just keep chipping at it, and when you get a chance don't look back'. And when I got my chance in Round 6...oh it was a bit of history there."
And so here he is, scoring the try that brought grown men in red and green to tears. And he's still doing it on minimum wage. But when you've got $8000 worth of NRL premiership ring weighing down your finger, and a Mastercard ad worth of memories, well you don't sweat it too much.
"A lot of belief has been put into me by Madge and his coaching staff and you can't let them down when there's that much faith in you," Auva'a says.
"I just had to perform every week and keep my spot.
"I got signed real late, so they just had to give me what they had in the cap.
"They're the sacrifices you have to make; it's all worth it when you get this ring."