Comparisons with Israel Folau appear inevitable for Suliasi Vunivalu after the Fijian flyer remained on track to shatter the dual international’s NRL rookie try scoring record.
Vunivalu took his season tally to 16 tries in 10 games after flying high with a hat-trick in Melbourne’s 48-6 record demolition of Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
And with eight regular season games left, Vunivalu is already in sight of Folau’s record for most tries in a rookie season.
Folau crossed for an impressive 21 tries in 27 games in his first NRL season back in 2007 – also with Melbourne.
To date Vunivalu has crossed for two hat-tricks and five doubles this year.
Melbourne captain Cameron Smith said he sometimes caught glimpses of his former Storm teammate Folau in Vunivalu but did not want to make comparisons.
“When he is in the air taking speckies and scoring he does,” Smith said after Vunivalu flew high to score two tries off Cooper Cronk kicks.
“But he is a different player to Izzy.
“I am just pleased for Suli at the moment.
“He is getting an opportunity probably earlier than he expected and what we expected.
“But he’s a wonderful kid.
“He has a lot of natural ability but he is willing to learn and works hard.”
The 192cm winger has featured in barely 30 games of football in his life after being spotted by Storm scouts playing rugby in New Zealand and joining Melbourne just two years ago.
“He was outstanding in the air. He has an ability to get over the try line,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said after the eight try romp inflicted Brisbane’s worst home loss.
Melbourne notched their 10th win in 11 games against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium to hit the NRL ladder lead.
Not all went to plan.
Prop Jordan McLean (ankle) faces a lengthy sideline stint after coming off in the first half, joining an injury list already featuring Cameron Munster, Tim Glasby, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Will Chambers and Billy Slater.
Fullback Munster (ankle) is expected back after their next round bye after coming close to returning against Brisbane.
“It would be great to get him back. We are stretched to the seams,” Bellamy said of his injury dramas.