The humility that drove Paul Vautin on the path to greatness

Long before his successful television career, Paul Vautin was a star for Manly, Queensland and Australia during a stellar playing career in Sydney.

Before that he was a young tearaway for Wests in the Brisbane competition. His decision to move to Sydney to play for Manly wasn't easy to make. But it more than paid off for the man known as Fatty.

Titled "Vautin: a flaming star?", this article first appeared in Rugby League Week's Christmas issue in 1978, written by Keith Lawrie

One thing can be said about flame-thatched Brisbane back-row forward, Paul Vautin — when he goes to Manly he will not arrive with stars in his eyes.

League is a family tradition for Vautin and playing with Wests is part of that tradition.

Some of his first childhood memories are playing with a full-sized football with his father, George Vautin.

Paul Vautin on a training run.
Paul Vautin on a training run. ©Rugby League Week

"I suppose I must have been about three or four years old at the time," Vautin said.

"I remember Dad and I playing with a football in our backyard.

"In fact Dad taught me everything I know about the game today. He has been a great help to my career so far.

"He never misses my matches and neither does Mum. I can hear her cheering from the stands when I go out there to play."

I'm going to Sydney to learn how to play the game, not to become a star in my first year

Paul Vautin

Like his son, George Vautin was a Wests man through and through and played first grade with the Panthers when they won the A grade premiership in 1956.

Young Vautin admitted that his father did not want him to go to Sydney in 1979.

"He wanted me to have one more year in Brisbane. But now that he knows I have made up my mind he is right behind me," he said.

"He will even drive behind me in his own car when I take off for Sydney, and will help me get set up when I arrive."

Vautin said his major regret in leaving Brisbane was that he still wanted to play for Queensland.

But he has the satisfaction of having played under-18 for his State with some pretty fair company which will also be seen in Sydney in the not too distant future.

Two of his teammates who appeared with him on the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1977 in a curtain raiser to the Great Britain- Australian Test, were Paul McCabe, who is leaving Brisbane Norths for Sydney and Valleys' young ace, Wally Lewis, who was captain of the State under-18 team.

Wally Lewis, Colin Scott and Paul Vautin in 1988.
Wally Lewis, Colin Scott and Paul Vautin in 1988. ©NRL Photos

Lewis almost accepted a Sydney offer this year, but has decided to stay on with the Diehards for one more year.

Vautin was very undecided about his possible return to Brisbane in the near future.

"It depends how well I go down there," he reflected. "If I go well I don't think I will be back as a player."

Knowing Vautin's potential, his talent and his determination to succeed, I don't think we will ever see Vautin on Lang Park again, unless he is wearing a blue jersey or green and gold. That's our only chance of seeing him 'live' again and it's a very BIG chance.

Although he is only 19 years old and has rocketed to stardom in Brisbane League, his two feet are still planted squarely and firmly on mother earth.

Paul Vautin playing for Australia in 1988.
Paul Vautin playing for Australia in 1988. ©NRL Photos

He knows Sydney is going to be tough — mighty tough — for anyone from Brisbane, particularly a 19-year-old straight out of the junior ranks.

And when we asked him about his hopes and plans for his future in Sydney, Paul gave an honest and humble reply:

"I'm going to Sydney to learn how to play the game, not to become a star in my first year.

"Sydney is the place to learn about League and although I don't really like the idea of living in Sydney, I can put up with it if it means improving my game.

"I can't see myself getting a go in Sydney first grade next year ... there are just too many good players down there and I still need the experience.

"But I certainly hope to make it in reserve grade and to gain a permanent place there for the 1979 season.

"If I get that, then I will probably pick up a first grade match or two during the year when top players are injured."

"I look on playing in reserves as a period of learning and I have my sights set on winning selection in the firsts in 1980!"

Unless I miss my guess, that sounds like very honest, down-to-earth self-appraisal to me and with an outlook like that how can Vautin fail in the Big Smoke?

Vautin feels that his learning stopped when he rocketed into Wests A grade team at the start of the 1978 season straight from under-18 with Queensland.

Paul Vautin on the charge for Queensland.
Paul Vautin on the charge for Queensland. ©NRL Photos

He feels that he missed out on his apprenticeship by stepping straight into A grade.

Even when he first played A grade he was asked to concentrate on defence in a type of specialist role.

Only late in the season did he get the chance to show his outstanding ability in attack.

But there was still only limited opportunities to go in for attack when he was expected to keep up a tackle count of 35 a match, a standard he set when he made his debut with Wests first grade.