Church and state bring out best in Reds star
CHRIS Feauai-Sautia is rebuilding his Reds career with the same devotion he has for rebuilding the church where he doubles as a Sunday school teacher.
The powerfully-framed centre is once again a potential matchwinner for the tricky run-in with the hot-and-cold Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Sunday morning (AEST).
It's far removed from this time last year when the two-Test Wallaby was sidelined, overweight after knee surgery and drifting towards a lost Super Rugby season.
The stark reality that he was on the brink of being cut six months ago, at just 23, gave the quietly-spoken figure a major jolt to refocus.
Enter coach Brad Thorn and assistant Paul Carozza. The pair unlocked the best from the 101kg enigma for Queensland Country and it has flowed on to the Reds.
Interviews with Feauai-Sautia are as rare as chats with the blonde singer who fronted Abba.
That's why the words which followed his proud dressing room speech after a winning 50th Super Rugby appearance against the Bulls last Saturday are worth listening to.
"I just want to say thank you to all the Reds staff for making it happen and having the belief in me to sign me again," Feauai-Sautia said.
"I've trained really hard to be fitter and stronger than I've ever been.
"It shows out there on the field when you play with happiness."
The Carozza connection should be highlighted because he was the conduit, in his pathways role, when ushering in the shy teen straight out of Brisbane State High in 2011.
If he wasn't in Argentina on Sunday morning, Feauai-Sautia would be singing hymns at the EFKS Congregational Southside Church at Browns Plains.
This converted fibro and weatherboard house serves as church for the Samoan community he proudly represents.
He donates from his Reds wage with hopes that a new church of bricks-and-mortar will begin to take shape later this year.
"Chris is at church every weekend, except when rugby takes him away, and he help the kids as Sunday school teacher," said uncle Petaia Tuifao, the church pastor.
The great frustration with Feauai-Sautia had always been two or three big moments mixed with 60 minutes as a spectator on the wing.
That is changing because he made 10 runs against the Bulls, regularly broke the first tackle and his excellent balance allowed him to off-load in traffic.
It's drawing the best from players like this and new hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa which is paying off for Thorn.
Paenga-Amosa was on a brief trial in Melbourne for the Rebels late last year when the power of a Thorn phone call won him instantly.
"I was kind of star struck having this idol of mine call me, asking me if I wanted to come up to Brisbane," Paenga-Amosa said.
"As soon I spoke to Brad Thorn I jumped straight in the car and drove from Melbourne to Brisbane, with a brief stop to see family in Sydney, and never looked back."