'I'm better than that': Suliasi Vunivalu plans to win back respect as he eyes return from injury
The Melbourne Storm winger starred in his side’s NRL grand final victory in October, despite spending almost six months away from his family in the club’s Sunshine Coast COVID-19 bubble.
But what seemed destined to be a smooth transition has been anything but, Vunivalu missing three of his unbeaten side’s seven wins this Super Rugby AU season, first because of suspension then due to a hamstring injury.
Part of a Wallabies’ 40-man camp in Sydney this week, Vunivalu’s arrival from rugby league has been trumpeted as a potential game-changer for the national side, who will play France and then potentially host the Rugby Championship later this year.
While he has shown glimpses of brilliance in his few starts this season Vunivalu knows he’s running out of time to make an impression if he wants to be part of those Tests.
The last thing Mo’unga faddists want to see, the old Barrett is coming back… pronto! https://t.co/e7TuPgCX3w
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 12, 2021
And it’s partly his own doing, the 25-year-old set for a court date next weekend after being charged with common assault for allegedly striking a security guard in the face while intoxicated earlier this year.
He missed the season opener as a result, the club also fining him and saying he had allegedly pushed the security guard.
“It was hard standing in front of them (my teammates) addressing them; not a good look being there just four weeks when that incident happened,” Vunivalu said on Monday.
“He (coach Brad Thorn) said this is just a minor setback, but the only way it can get better is by what you do afterwards.
“So I just tried to keep my head down and show on the field that I’m better than that … at that time I really wanted support, so him talking to me was really good.”
The Reds will host the domestic final on May 8 with Vunivalu a chance of collecting a dual-code double inside six months.
All but over his hamstring niggle, Vunivalu hopes to first find a spot in a stacked Reds backline to face the Western Force on April 23 after their bye this week.
Regular visits to Reds attack coach Jim McKay’s office and Thorn’s “old-school” approach have Vunivalu confident the game he played as a schoolboy in Fiji and New Zealand is quickly coming back to him.
“I can kick, I can roam around like a fullback in league in the middle or the other edge so I’m happy (with my progression) but I’m learning and the more games the better,” he said.
“One more game before the big dance would be good because I’d love to (play for the Wallabies later this year) but you’ve got to show it at club level to wear that (jersey).”
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