The Melbourne Rebels are counting on Wallaby-in-waiting Marika Koroibete showing them the way to the tryline next season after luring the Storm winger away from the NRL.
The Melbourne flyer confirmed on Thursday he’ll depart at the end of the season to move to the Rebels on a two-year Super Rugby deal with the goal of playing for Australia.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan said the Rebels weren’t in the hunt for the Fijian-born Koroibete until the Australian Rugby Union got involved.
“The ARU was their (Koroibete’s) first point of contact as there wouldn’t have been a deal without the ARU,” McGahan said.
“There wouldn’t have been any contact if they didn’t think that he was a viable option for them higher up.
“We were one of the suitors and we were lucky with him already living in Melbourne but the driving factors were he wanted to return to rugby and play for the Wallabies.”
McGahan, who often attends Storm games as a fan, said any club would want the powerful Koroibete, who has scored 39 tries in 57 games.
It’s that try-scoring ability that made the 23-year-old particularly attractive for the Rebels, who have struggled to get over the line.
“He’s a really exciting finisher and has a real x-factor about him which is important to how we get better as squad,” McGahan said ahead of their Super clash with the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium on Saturday.
“It takes us a long time to get that ball over the tryline and we have to work exceptionally hard to get that … whether it’s a physical or skill advantage or an individual piece of brilliance, those players are a premium so he’s a good fit.”
Both the Rebels and Storm train and play at the same ground, AAMI Park, which made for an awkward exchange in the hallway on Thursday morning.
But McGahan said because the Rebels didn’t instigate the code-swap they were in the clear.
Koroibete said he simply couldn’t turn down a lucrative offer to switch codes.
“It was a very hard decision to make to leave Storm, but it’s a great opportunity for my young family here in Melbourne and my family back home in Fiji,” Koroibete said in a statement.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said it was a shame to be losing Koroibete and he had hoped the NRL would have provided more assistance to the Storm to help them keep the winger in the game.