ROOKIE South Sydney centre Kirisome Auva’a believes working day in and day out with Melbourne’s superstars has given him the perfect preparation for life in the NRL.
Auva’a made his debut in the Rabbitohs side that beat Penrith 18-2 last Friday night and made an instant impression by scoring the opening try of the game.
Souths coach Michael Maguire chose Auva’a over the experienced Beau Champion after Joel Reddy was ruled out through injury.
And the Samoa-born 22-year-old showed enough to suggest he’s here to stay and will line up against Canterbury today.
‘‘I was on cloud nine because we won the game and I scored on my NRL debut,’’ Auva’a said.
‘‘I was a bit nervous when it went up to the video ref, but I knew I’d scored, but you always have that doubt in your mind.’’
Auva’a has taken a circuitous route to reach the NRL, growing up in Auckland after his family moved from Samoa, then going to school at the prestigious Ipswich Grammar in Queensland.
‘‘It was a good school and some really good league and rugby players have come out of it,’’ he said.
‘‘Lagi Setu, Lami Tasi, Martin Kennedy went there, so did Berrick Barnes and Albert Anae, who plays for the Queensland Reds.
‘‘After I finished my schooling I went down to Melbourne where I had four brilliant years and really learned what being a professional footy player was about.’’
Despite revelling in the ultra-professional set-up that’s made the Storm one of the great clubs of modern times, Auva’a knew he had to leave if he was to get a chance in the NRL.
‘‘I played in the Cronulla NSW Cup side that won the grand final last year, and that was an awesome experience,’’ he said.
‘‘But it was really hard to crack the NRL team there, they have so many great players.
‘‘But when you work day in and day out with Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Cam Smith and Ryan Hoffman, you can’t help but learn.
‘‘The way they go about things and talk to the young players, you pick up so much.
‘‘One of the reasons they are so good is because of hard work.
‘‘It didn’t happen down there, but I’ve bided my time and hopefully it can at Souths. It’s up to me now.’’
Meanwhile, Canterbury prop Aiden Tolman says Canterbury remain as wary as ever of South Sydney’s fearsome forward pack despite the loss of suspended stars George Burgess and Ben Te’o.
Burgess and Te’o will sit out today’s clash after both accepted early guilty pleas for separate tripping incidents involving Penrith’s Matt Moylan last week.
But Tolman said the Rabbitohs forward pack would still be strong.
‘‘It is going to be a great challenge for us and everyone is up for it,’’ Tolman said.
‘‘South Sydney are a great forward pack. They have got good go-forward mixed in with a lot of skill as well, so we are going to need to turn up and be ready to play Friday afternoon to get the job done.
‘‘They play through the middle. We need to make sure we try and win the ruck and stay really tight around there, because if we do that, it stops [Greg] Inglis and [Nathan] Merritt coming into the game.’’
Tolman and teammate Josh Morris said the traditional Good Friday match could one day be one of the marquee events on the NRL calendar.
With the Easter Show in full swing next door, NRL officials are hoping for a repeat of last year when 51,686 fans saw Souths get over the Bulldogs to set a new regular-season attendance record. AAP
PROMISE: Kirisome Auva’a in his debut against Penrith last week.