Competition - NRL Premiership

Round - Round 07

Teams - Wests Tigers Vs Melbourne Storm

Date - 17th of April 2016

Venue - Leichhardt Oval 

Photographer - Robb Cox

Suliasi Vunivalu endured years of hard work to reach the top level but it took just 58 seconds for him to celebrate it.

Storm’s latest Fijian Flyer made a blistering start to his rugby league career when he scored his maiden try less than a minute into his NRL debut.

He then added a second in the 53rd minute to ensure it would be an afternoon the young man would never forget as he helped Storm to a thrilling 19-18 golden point win over Wests Tigers.

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Vunivalu was a late inclusion into the side after fellow winger Young Tonumaipea was ruled out with a calf strain before kickoff.

After taking the long road to the NRL, the 20-year-old was ready to seize the opportunity.

“He’s a great kid, very, very respectful and really well mannered,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“He really enjoyed it here, being with Marika, so to have them on the wings was good. 

“Marika presented him with his jumper today and his mum and dad came over from Fiji. We didn’t know he was playing until Friday and they didn’t have a Visa so it was pretty hard going for the people organising that.

“It was great for them to come over, he scored a couple of tries and he’s a strong kid.”

Born in the Fijian capital of Suva, Vunivalu spent time at St Kentigern College in Auckland playing rugby union. He then made the move to Melbourne in 2014, making eight appearances for the Thunderbolts.

Vunivalu has battled through his share of injuries in recent years, all the while developing his game at reserve grade level and on Sunday both he and the Club reaped the rewards of those years of hard work.

“Hopefully he’ll play a lot more first grade, we think he will. He’s a special sort of athlete,” Bellamy said.

“He hasn’t played a whole heap of league… I think after today we’re probably going to see a fair bit more of him.

“We were really, really happy with him and his performance today and we are really proud of him because he’s had a lot of injuries over the two years, he’s only (20) years old and he’s basically playing a new game.

“We are really proud of him and hopefully he’ll go on to have a really good career with us.”