Vunivalu record bound ahead of 50th
As a teenager, Melbourne Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu idolized fellow Fijian and former Parramatta Eels flyer Semi Radradra.
Now, on the eve of his 50th NRL game, the Melbourne Storm winger has a chance to go one better than his hero when it comes to scoring tries.
Radradra scored 48 tries in his first 50 games. Vunivalu is sitting on the same tally ahead of the club's round three clash with the North Queensland Cowboys on Thursday night.
"He's a good player, Semi," Vunivalu said.
"In the under 20s in the lower grades, I used to look up to him, because he was really good for Parramatta."
Vunivalu has racked up a number of records during his short career - topping the try-scoring charts in 2016 and 2017, and breaking the NRL record for total tries in his first two seasons - so it's no surprise he's deflecting his latest milestone to focus on the job at hand.
"I'm really excited to play 50 games for this club," he said.
"It's just a number, and I'll just treat it as a normal game. I'll prepare and can't wait."
Fiji coach Mick Potter was asked why the quietly-spoken winger is such a successful athlete.
Potter witnessed Vunivalu's skills first-hand during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup as he led the way with nine tries for the tournament.
"He certainly made our team better," Potter told NRL.com.
"His ability to bring the ball back on play one or two from kicks, he's like another forward for you. But also on the other end, his ability to catch kicks and score tries is phenomenal.
"His awareness of the space around him and what he needs to get the ball down and beat the defender is phenomenal."
The Melbourne Storm's system has helped Vunivalu reach his potential, according to Potter.
"Being at the club has really made him blossom," he said.
"He's got the frame to be able to be able to capitalise (on scoring opportunities); he's got great speed, great anticipation. His natural instincts for the game are apparent. I can't compliment him enough."
"He is still very young in his NRL career.
"We had players who had no NRL experience playing for us. He was, as far as outside backs are concerned, one of our senior players.’’