From Frog Hollow to national glory

FORMER Endeavour Hills Rugby Union Club junior Digby Ioane is celebrating nationwide accolades in the code after making his debut for Australia against Wales in Brisbane on Saturday night.

Ioane, 21, spent his formative years at the local club developing his skills and trademark speed, and he showcased both to a huge audience on the weekend.

“I was so excited getting to play with all the boys, like Steve Larkham and Stirling Mortlock, because I was watching them as a little kid,” he said.

“I was a bit lost in the first half, but I had a chat with John (Connolly, the Australian head coach) at half-time and I was told just to forget about everything and do what I normally do.

“Everything just poured off from then on.”

The 179cm winger of Samoan heritage even crossed for a second-half try in Australia’s 31-0 victory over the Welsh.

“I was just so nervous when I got the ball,” Ioane said.

“I could feel that guy right on me and I could hear his footsteps getting closer, but I just kept going.

“I sprinted for my life – I was just laughing when it happened.”

Although it was a memorable experience for Ioane, it was a natural progression for him after representing his country at both under-19 and under-21 level.

“With anything I do, I do it step by step,” he said.

“In juniors, making the Australian under 19s was the main goal and then the following year it was the 21s.

“It has just kept going from then on and I always give myself a goal.”

Ioane made his professional debut in the Super 14 competition for the Western Force last year, but will switch to the Queensland Reds next year.

It is the latter state that allowed him to take the next step in rugby union when he left Victoria as a 16-year-old to attend St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace, in Brisbane.

“Moving away from home was the biggest sacrifice I made because my family plays a big part in my life and I wanted to stay,” Ioane said.

“It was a pretty tough two years at Terrace and I had a choice to go home at the end of it because I was still homesick, but I thought if I go back to Melbourne it was a waste of time at Terrace for those two years.

“I decided to stay and achieve my goals.”

Ioane still has fond memories of Endeavour Hills and is a regular at games when his schedule allows.

“To be honest, people talk it up, but I’m just myself – I’m not cocky,” he said.

“I love hanging out with the little kids (at Endeavour Hills) and play touch and stuff.

“I do miss playing back there and hanging with all my mates because it was awesome.”

Endeavour Hills Rugby Union club president Ashley White is a big fan of Digby Ioane – the footballer and the man.

“He’s a real good example of a player who’s been successful, but doesn’t ignore where he’s learnt the game and where his rugby family started,” White said.

“When he played with us he had speed, a good attitude and was the sort of kid that got out there and played the game and enjoyed it. He put everything into it and that’s why he succeeds.”

Ioane grew up in a rugby family, with his father Natu and his brothers Robbie, 42, Lofi, 40, Paul, 37, and Tapu, 24, all playing the sport.

Tapu and Paul still play at Endeavour Hills, as does Paul’s son Monty.

“I just love running the ball and making heaps of mates through it – I love everything about it,” Ioane said.

“Nothing has changed – I’m the same guy I always was.”


Comment Guidelines: The SportsTG Network is made up of players, families and passionate sports followers like you who have a strong opinion about sport. That's great - we want you to have your say and share your thoughts with the world. However, we have a few rules that you must follow to keep it fun for all. Please don't be rude, abusive, swear or vilify others. Apart from some pretty serious sport sanctions, we also can ban you and report you if things get out of hand. So play fair and have fun, and thanks for your contribution.