If Melbourne do lose winger Marika Koroibete to rugby Suliasi Vunivalu is emerging as a ready-made replacement.
Koroibete is being courted by the Melbourne Rebels and Australian Rugby Union but 20-year-old fellow Fijian Vunivalu is taking the NRL by storm.
Ironically Vunivalu is a rugby player – he boarded at an Auckland school and was in the Blues’ Super Rugby system – before being lured to Melbourne to play league.
Due to a long run of injuries he’s managed less than 20 league games in total but has made the most of his two NRL matches.
After a double on debut Vunivalu crossed the line four times in the Storm’s 42-0 thrashing of the Warriors; although two were denied by the bunker.
His second try came in the 79th minute and improved Melbourne’s percentage to allow them to leap-frog the Sharks into third.
Hard-marking coach Craig Bellamy wasn’t happy with Vunivalu’s first effort, which was ruled no-try with him putting a foot on the sideline.
“I would have liked him to have scored that first one,” Bellamy said.
“He had about three metres to work in and he decided to work in an inch which wasn’t the ideal situation for us.”
But Bellamy said Vunivalu, who stands 192cm, showed a lot of promise and like the physicality and aggression he brought to the position.
“He’s got a lot of ability and he’s quite aggressive defensively and he can certainly run the ball when he gets hold of it.”
Bellamy said Vunivalu needed to keep working at his game if he wanted to hold his position among a host of young backs at the Storms.
“He’s showing some real signs that he can be a real strike for us but like the rest of the young blokes they needs to keep their nose down and work and over time he’ll hopefully even improve his contribution to us.”
Vunivalu is set to remain in the line-up to face the Titans next Sunday afternoon with centre/winger Young Tonumaipea suffering medial ligament damage.