When the Western Force were cut from Super Rugby, family ties made Shambeckler Vui choose the Waratahs over the Brumbies.
Now, the 10-cap Junior Wallaby is ready to learn what it takes to become a senior international, and what better place for him to do that than at the Brumbies, the club that had three of the four Aussie props in their Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji last Saturday.
“Dan let me know he was interested when I was leaving the Force,” Vui said, in an exclusive interview for Brumbies.com.au.
“He said at the time, he saw a lot of potential in me and wanted to work with me to take my game to that next level.
“At the time, I just thought being closer to family in Sydney was best for me, but thankfully two years down the track Dan came calling again and said he still wanted to take my game up a level.”
Vui’s international ambitions are warranted. Two years ago, Vui was one of the highest rated young players in Australia, if not the World, for his position.
An abnormally athletic Tighthead prop, Vui made a name for himself with massive hits, and barnstorming carries like these.
However, Vui says he is coming to Canberra to be trained in the dark arts, the set-piece, something we know a thing or two about here in Bruce.
“The Brumbies have a massive reputation for their set-piece, so it just made sense for me to come here,” Vui explained.
“Honestly, I wanted to know why the Brumbies are so good at the scrum, and if they can take me to the level of the likes of Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa.
“I want to push myself into that Wallaby fold and I feel like this is the place for me to do that.”
Moving in search of opportunity is something Vui has been doing his whole life.
Born in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, Vui’s parents moved to New Zealand to be closer to Vui’s mother, before returning to Brisbane where he would play all his Junior rugby.
Despite playing a little bit at centre, it was clear that Vui was destined for the front row, but he nearly wasn’t a rugby player at all.
Vui describes himself as an “angry kid,” and his father thought rugby would be a good outlet for that extra energy, even if the young Vui disagreed.
He was right. As Vui progressed, his talent began to shine through and after blazing his trail with Ipswich College, the Western Force came calling.
The rugby decision was easy. The Force, then coached by current Rebels boss Dave Wessels were an up and coming team, with a hole at Tighthead.
It was the family element which Vui had to wrestle with, being so far from his folks. Perth may still be in Australia, but for a 19-year old, the West may as well be a world away.
“It took me time to adjust over there,” Vui remembered.
“As every Islander kid knows, we’re very tight knit, very family orientated, so going to Perth, that was the first time I had left home on my own.
“I went there with a purpose, and that’s what got me through. I was desperate to play Super Rugby, so I just focused on that.”
It didn’t take him long. A couple months after moving west, still a teenager at the time, Vui was rushed to New Zealand when the Force needed emergency cover.
In his debut, a cameo off the bench against the Blues, Vui showed glimpses of the player he could be.
His first touch, a clean break where he picked and drove through a defender and out ran the chasing lock before being brought down, just as his considerable pistons were beginning to fire.
Vui went on to make another fistful of appearances for the Force that season, taking the middle of the season to go overseas with the Junior Wallabies, where he scored this viral hit.
For Vui, the Force’s demise may have been an unfortunate sliding doors moment.
Had they stuck around, he may well have forced himself into a starting jumper in 2018. Instead, Vui went to the ‘Tahs, where Sekope Kepu was a nailed on in the Tighthead jersey.
Injuries, selection opinions, whatever it may have been, Vui’s stint at the ‘Tahs promised much but finished without flurry.
Most of us like to think we are living our lives to a plan. We think about our moves, particularly the big ones, and try to map out where we might be in two, five, ten years.
The problem is, even the plan we think is best for us, can lead down the wrong path. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” as John Steinbeck put it.
Shambeckler Vui’s plan to head home to the ‘Tahs didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong option.
Who knows what may have been, had he made the move to Canberra two years ago? Nobody does. Vui can’t control that.
The only thing he can control, is himself, and it certainly feels like he is joining Australia’s most successful side, with the same drive that saw him burst onto the scene as a teenager.