In the tradition of Semi Radradra, Sisa Waqa and Marika Koroibete, Melbourne believe they have uncovered the latest Fijian flyer that’s set to take the NRL by storm in Suliasi Vunivalu.
While coach Craig Bellamy admitted to not being able to pronounce his name, Vunivalu was the name on everyone’s lips after his two-try debut in Melbourne’s golden point 19-18 victory over Wests Tigers on Sunday.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, with the 192cm, 99kg winger producing a knock on during extra time which could have cost his side the game, however Vunivalu’s first outing could hardly have been more impressive.
He could have been forgiven for thinking first grade was a walk in the park when he scored in the second minute, flying high to bat back a Cooper Cronk bomb before backing up to cross with his second touch.
By the time the fulltime siren rang, he had run for 165 metres and bagged a double as well as coming up with a linebreak and two tackle busts.
What makes the 20-year-old’s debut all the more remarkable is that he has only been playing league for just over two years.
A former member of the Auckland Blues development squad, he was scouted playing rugby union at high school in New Zealand.
He has also spent a big chunk of 2014-15 on the sidelines because of injury, meaning he is still learning the game and in unfamiliar territory.
“His ceiling in terms of where he can go, there’s no real limit,” Cronk said.
“He’s a raw talent with a lot of athletic ability. I think he could be a really good player for the Storm.”
He was only drafted into the side on Friday after Young Tonuamaipea was ruled out with a calf strain and his mum and dad were rushed to the country.
Despite not having the proper visas, the club managed to get them to Sydney in time for kick-off.
Just as now-Canberra winger Waqa served as a mentor for Koroibete during his first few years, Koroibete has now taken Vunivalu under his wing and presented him with his jersey at Leichhardt on Sunday.
“It’s a credit to his mental resilience to uproot what he knows and move to another city to chase his dream,” Cronk said.