100 Years of Rugby News: Volavola sinks the Students from the sideline
Southern Districts’ search for a maiden Shute Shield title has been filled with heartbreak.
The club, which formed in 1989 following the merger of Port Hacking and St George, came agonisingly close in their first ever grand final in 2012. The Rebels led
Sydney Uni 11-3 at half time before letting the Students back into the match. Trailing 15-14, Souths attacked and attacked in the closing stages but couldn’t break through the rock solid Uni defence.
In 2014, the two sides met again in almost identical circumstances. This time, it was a preliminary final at University Oval and once again the Rebels trailed by one point with just over a minute remaining.
When Souths won a penalty, 40 metres out and five in from touch, fly-half Ben Volavola surprised everyone by pointing to the posts. He’d had an off day with the boot to that point and the kick was well outside his range.
But still stinging from the one-point grand final loss in 2012, Volavola felt it was the only choice.
“I remember looking around at our guys and everyone just looked absolutely spent,” he said.
“Barrey (coach Matt Barr) was yelling for us to kick for touch but I really didn’t think we had anything left. I pointed to the goalposts, but I knew that I’d never kicked a goal from that far out before. I don’t know what I was thinking really.”
If Volavola was worried, he certainly didn’t show it. He slotted the 50-plus-metre penalty goal to end Sydney Uni’s run of nine straight Shute Shield grand finals.
“Hang on, hang on, he’s kicked it. Unbelievable,” ABC commentator Steve Robilliard screamed as the Rebels fans stormed the field.
But their joy was short-lived. The Rebels couldn’t match Eastwood in the grand final a week later and the club’s search for a maiden title continued.
While Volavola went on to represent Fiji at the World Cup, play professionally in France and even date a Hollywood actress, he still considers it one of his fondest memories.
“The feeling when it went over was incredible. We’d never beaten Sydney Uni at Sydney Uni, so to win like that to get into a grand final. It was pretty special,” he said.