When he signed for the NSW Waratahs following the axing of the Western Force, not many people would have realised that the boom young prop with the memorable name was actually returning home in a way.
Shambeckler Vui was born in Bankstown (NSW), named by a Middle Eastern family who were close with his parents. From Bankstown came moves to New Zealand, Queensland, and to Perth, where he was exposed to an elite Rugby environment for the first time, but there is a feeling of being home in a sense in Sydney.
“Bankstown is where I was born; Mum and Dad are from Samoa, and they migrated for a better life and better opportunities," he told RUPA. "We moved over to Auckland, and then when I was ten years old we moved to Queensland and I ended up at Ipswich Grammar and started playing footy.”
From there, the rest is history, with the 20-year-old being encouraged to try his hand at Rugby for the first time and immediately deciding that this was how he planned on making a living.
“The Head of Sport convinced me to play, and it all started from there,” he explains.
“I knew from the very moment that I first played Rugby that I wanted to do this for a job.
When I moved over from New Zealand to Queensland I was an angry little kid, and playing Rugby was a good outlet for my anger and energy. I loved it from the moment I started and right from that point onwards I wanted to make it a full-time thing.
“I always played in the front row. I was playing Rugby Union at school and playing a bit of Rugby League as well for a Club side on Sundays. I always had decent ball skills from League but loved the set piece element of Rugby. I played the first ever year of Junior Gold Cup, and I played Queensland and Australian Schoolboys and then into the Australia U20s.”
His exploits caught the eye of talent scouts in Perth, and out of school he was given the opportunity to shift 4,350 kilometres across the Nullarbor to join the Future Force Academy.
“The first couple of months living in Perth was really tough, because as most people would know Polynesians are very family-oriented and that was the first time I had ever left home. I was actually the first one of my siblings to leave home as well, so that was fairly tough on Mum and Dad.
“Fortunately, I was placed with a Force Family and that really helped me. It was basically a family who supported the Club and took kids from the Future Force Foundation into their homes, and I was lucky enough to be taken in and had a great experience. In my second year in Perth, I moved full-time into the Western Force squad and made my Super Rugby debut, so it all went really well over there.”
And then, of course, everything changed. The decision was made to remove the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition as of 2018, and just as quickly as Sham had made himself at home in Western Australia he was forced to find another team to play for – and a new, or old in this case, home.
“It was a really tough year, I’m not going to lie,” he says. “Seeing blokes who you are really close with, your teammates, going through hard times is not easy. It was really hard to cope with the uncertainty of what was happening with our Club.
“I made the decision to move to the Waratahs. Alex Newsome and I were the only guys from the Force who had moved here (Curtis Rona was on the Spring Tour with the Wallabies), and that was pretty tough right at the start of the pre-season.
“I was the new kid on the block and it felt like the first day at school, I didn’t really know anybody that well yet. The Islander boys, like Taqele Naiyaravoro and Tolu Latu, really went out of their way to welcome me in and from there I’ve been able to make friends with everybody else, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do.”
While he was initially nervous about how to behave, a stint staying with Waratahs Head Coach Daryl Gibson also made the move a lot easier.
“It (living with the Coach) was quite intimidating for the first few days, as I felt like I couldn’t do certain things or eat certain things in front of him, but when I settled in I actually really enjoyed living with Daryl.
“When he came back from the Spring Tour, Curtis Rona joined us as well, as Darryl’s family were on holiday, so he had a couple of spare rooms. It was back to sleeping in a single bed! The longer that we stayed there, the more we opened up to each other and spoke a lot more and got to know each other really well. He’s a really nice guy on and off the field, so I really enjoyed it and I’m really grateful he opened his home to me.”
With Daryl’s family back to reclaim their turf and Curtis’ wife Jacinta and daughter Sapphire moving over to Sydney, the four of them found a house together and settled in to their new lives at their new team as the season kicked off.
“Everything has been going well so far, I really love living with all three of them and it just feels like I am back at home. I would rather be living with other people in Sydney than living by myself. It is important to have a family-type atmosphere at home to keep you company and also to keep you grounded. Jacinta is the boss of the household and she makes sure we’re keeping up with our chores!
“Last year’s uncertainty at the Force, I lost the fun of playing footy, so I want to get that back this year. I also want to take advantage of learning as much as I can from ‘Keps’ (Sekope Kepu) now that I get to play and train with him.
“I was so fortunate that I learnt so much from the front rowers at the Force; Pek Cowan, Tetera Faulkner and Tatafu Polota-Nau particularly. Playing tighthead prop is a really tough position, but those guys really helped me with my set piece ahead of the U20s World Cup, which I was really grateful for.”
Having made his Waratahs debut in Round Two, Shambeckler has since had to bide his time as he competes for a place in the 23 alongside Kepu, fellow Wallabies Tom Robertson and Paddy Ryan, and fellow rookies Harry Johnson-Holmes, Kalivati Tawake and Cody Walker. Shambeckler’s definitely one to keep an eye on, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble remembering the name in the years to come…
“I’ve had a lot of nicknames over the years. I’ve had Sham Wow, Sham Ba Lam, Sham Buck - I don't mind at all!" he laughs.
Fast four with Shambeckler Vui
Cheapest teammate: Tolu Latu
Worst dress sense: Irae Simone
Worst Haircut: Lalakai Foketi
Sporting hero as a child: Jonah Lomu
Shambeckler Vui Profile:
Born: Bankstown, NSW, May 20th, 1997
Position: Tighthead Prop
Super Rugby Caps: 7 Caps (6 Western Force, 1 Waratahs)
NRC Caps: 14 Caps (2 tries), Perth Spirit
Australia U20s: 10 Caps (1 try)
Australian Schoolboys: 2 Tests (1 try)