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Cross-code star Suliasi Vunivalu responds to speculation about NRL return

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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Off-contract Reds wing Suliasi Vunivalu has broken his silence about recent speculation linking him with a return to the NRL.

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Coming towards the end of his two-year deal with the Reds and Rugby Australia, Vunivalu has been the subject of transfer rumours that have tied the 26-year-old with a move back to rugby league.

Those rumours come in the midst of an injury-plagued spell in rugby union for Vunivalu, who has managed only seven appearances for the Reds since joining the franchise last year.

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Persistent hamstring injuries and off-field troubles have prevented the two-time NRL champion from replicating his try-scoring league exploits in Super Rugby, leading to whispers that he could return to the 13-man code.

The NRL’s newest expansion franchise, the Redcliffe Dolphins, are understood to be particularly interested in securing Vunivalu’s services from next year onwards, but the man in question has moved to assure that his imminent future remains in union.

“I’d like to stay in rugby, but I’m not going to make any decision [on 2023] until I’m back on the field and have played three or four games,” Vunivalu, who scored 86 tries in 111 NRL appearances for the Melbourne Storm, said earlier this week.

The first of those matches could come within the next fortnight as Vunivalu, who hasn’t played for the Reds at all this season, revealed he will be available for selection following this weekend’s match against the Brumbies.

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The Reds have a bye next week, meaning the next game the former Fijian league international will available for will be their round nine clash against the Rebels at AAMI Park in Melbourne on April 15.

“I ran at full pace last week. I’m back in the main training group with contact and I’ll be fit to play after the Brumbies game on Saturday,” Vunivalu said.

“I had a lot of scans on the hamstring before the doctors gave me the thumbs up in January to run fast again. It’s exciting.

“I never want to be talking about my hamstring again. Scoring tries, catching kicks…that’s my job.”

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Having Vunivalu back on deck will be pleasing not only for the Reds, but also for Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie, who has invited the cross-code flyer to attend one day of this month’s three-day training camp on the Gold Coast.

Rennie’s willingness to include Vunivalu in the training camp, despite having excluded him from the official training squad, after such minimal game time is indicative of the potential the Wallabies boss sees in the Reds speedster.

Vunivalu will watch on from the stands on Saturday as the Reds eye a redemption victory over the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane after losing to their rivals in Canberra a fortnight ago.

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