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No more second chances

Date

Chris Dutton

Fotu Auelua knows he's in the last chance saloon, but he's fast making amends, as CHRIS DUTTON writes in South Africa

photo by STUART WALMSLEY. Powerful Brumbies back rower Fotu Auelua.

photo by STUART WALMSLEY. Powerful Brumbies back rower Fotu Auelua. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

SHOPLIFTING, schoolyard fights and a self-confessed rebel - Fotu Auelua knew his Super Rugby dream was destined for the scrapheap if he hadn't turned his life around.

Now 28, Fotunu'upule Auelua is the fearsome 121kg ACT Brumbies No. 8 launching his Super Rugby career in Canberra.

But few know the troubled youth who shoplifted, had scholarships torn up, was constantly fighting, went to six different schools in Australia and almost gave up on his rugby dream to be a security guard at nightclubs.

For a guy who has played just two games for the Brumbies, Auelua's journey to the top has been painfully long.

He played schoolboy rugby with Digby Ioane, Ben Mowen and Ben Alexander.

But while they excelled, Auelua kept making ''stupid decisions'' and at times it appeared his career would never take off.

That's why he pinches himself when riding the team bus in South Africa ''just to make sure it's reality''.

And the fact he's been through so much already makes him appreciate every chance he gets to test himself against the best players.

''I've had a troubled life, not with my family but with the decisions I've made - I wasn't the best kid around,'' Auelua said, speaking for the first time since being selected to make his debut.

''Every time I had a foot in the door, I would take a backward step because of other things I did.

''I've been to six different schools in Australia, now you look back and laugh at it. But deep down it is a bit embarrassing and I've grown up to understand that.

''Those things happen, I've realised my mistakes and I'm trying to rectify it and I think it has made me a better person.

''A lot of people probably wouldn't talk about that past. I'm not proud of it, but it has made me the person I am today, it was either grow up for it or I would still be in the place I was in as a young kid.''

Auelua will play his third Super Rugby match when the Brumbies take on the Johannesburg Lions at Ellis Park tomorrow morning.

He draws inspiration from his family network which helped him transform his life and career - partner Annita, sons Noah and Maddax and father Falefia.

The Brumbies have given him a simple task as he attempts to establish his career in Australia - crash and smash.

He's no stranger to physicality - Auelua has been 120kg since he was 17. But even with his size, Auelua vomits before games as he struggles to fight nerves.

''It's just all the nerves and all the pressure and you just want to get out there,'' Auelua said.

''Sometimes I can't believe I'm here and it's a special feeling. My job is to be destructive, smash and be in that contact area.

''I know I've got a lot to improve on … I'm still excited and it feels like a good achievement for me to a part of the squad.

''And there is just an amazing feeling in this squad.''

It's a world away from where he thought he would be less than a decade ago.

Born in Wellington with Samoan heritage, Auelua moved to Campbelltown with his family when he was young.

He grew up playing rugby in the backyard pretending to be Tana Umaga and Jonah Lomu.

Soon he was being offered scholarships by top rugby schools.

But ''my mum would be in the office every month'' and he was regularly shown the door as he struggled to find his feet boarding away from home.

He fought his peers, he stole, he skipped class and wanted to find an escape.

He moved to the Gold Coast for one last scholarship chance and when he finished school he contemplated giving rugby away to get his forklift and security licences to support his young family.

But an opportunity with West Harbour in 2005 in Sydney opened the door for him to sign a professional deal with Top 15 club Dax in France and it changed his life.

Since then he has played for Toulon, moved to Japan and finally arrived in Canberra in February.

Even now he is his harshest critic.

When he dropped a ball against the Pretoria Bulls last weekend, the television cameras caught him giving himself an uppercut to get his mind back on the job.

He's already rattled bones with crunching tackles and charged through defenders with his devastating runs.

''I've never wanted to look back and think 'what if?', I hate that question,'' he said.

''I just want to set an example for my kids and for young Islanders out there because there are plenty that go through what I did and you've just got to change.''

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
 
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