Storm’s Vunivalu backed by Fiji fans

The streets in the tiny Fijian village of Bagasau will be empty next Sunday night as the locals head to the Vunivalu house to watch their favourite son in the NRL grand final.

Melbourne winger Suliasi Vunivalu bought his family, including five siblings, a television after signing with the Storm three years ago.

A hundred or so friends and family are expected to come – many wearing purple Storm gear donated by the 21-year-old Vunivalu’s teammates – on Sunday to cheer him on against North Queensland.

Vunivalu left his Fiji home for a rugby scholarship at school in New Zealand to help ease the financial burden on his family.

But he was snapped up by the Storm after they saw him playing a Super Rugby curtain-raiser with his school team at AAMI Park.

The 18-year-old had never played rugby league and didn’t even know how to play the ball.

Fast forward, he’s become the best finisher in the game, winning the NRL’s top-tryscorer gong in his first two seasons and is about to play in his second grand final.

“I know some players never get to play in one so it’s so exciting, I have to keep pinching myself that it’s real,” said Vunivalu.

“I’m trying not to look too far ahead of myself and just focusing on playing well for the Storm and hopefully winning this time.”

He and fellow Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr have formed the most lethal combination in the competition and between them have scored 44 tries this season.

No pair of wingers have crossed as many times in a single season since 1957.

“He’s a freak,” Vunivalu said of Addo-Carr, who scored a crucial try just before halftime in their preliminary final win over Brisbane.

Vunivalu will cap the year by representing Fiji at next month’s World Cup, unable to play for Australia after falling short in residency qualification requirements.

No doubt the crowd will be just as big in Bagasau for that.

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