After equalling Israel Folau’s rookie tryscoring record in the NRL, Melbourne winger Suliasi Vunivalu has been likened to the dual-international by coach Craig Bellamy.
The Fijian flyer bagged four tries in 30 minutes in the Storm’s 38-18 win over Manly on Saturday night, taking his tally to a remarkable 21 tries in 16 games.
With two games to go in the regular season, plus at least two finals games with the Storm guaranteed a top-two finish, Vunivalu is all but certain to shatter Folau’s feat.
“I respect Izzy Folau. He’s a good player, but it’d be good to go past that,” Vunivalu said.
“I wasn’t thinking about (the record) going into this game. If it’s Izzy Folau’s record, that’s not my focus. My focus was to be part of the team and play hard for the boys and come out with a win.”
Bellamy, who coached Folau in his two years at the Storm before the Queensland and Australian representative moved to Brisbane, said there were many similarities between the pair.
Folau was 17 when he made his NRL debut, while Vunivalu is 20.
“He’s probably a little bit quicker than Israel at this age, but Izzy was a little bit bigger than him. He was a little bit more thickset. They’re both really good in the air,” Bellamy said.
“What Izzy was doing was foreign to the game. Now a lot of wingers can do that sort of stuff now and obviously Suli’s one of them.
“They’re really good, respectful kids off the field and that was a real important part of how both of them, how good they’ve been early in their careers.”
Vunivalu’s four-try haul snapped a four-game drought from the rookie of the year candidate, who has snagged two hattricks and five braces in his short career.
He was the recipient of two try assists each from halfback Cooper Cronk and fullback Cameron Munster against the Sea Eagles, and should’ve had a fifth if not for surprisingly being run down by Josh Starling.
“I think Josh got a shock too actually,” Bellamy said.
“A few things fell for him there tonight, a couple of kicks. But one of the tries, the try right before halftime, it wasn’t a kick that was right on the spot where he wanted it or where we wanted it.
“He had to catch and then had to do a little bit of work. That shows his class and his ability and obviously we’d like to think he’s going to be a real good player for a long time.”