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Swoop for another Fijian winger sees NRL journalist hit out at Rugby Australia

An NRL senior journalist has criticised Rugby Australian after the signing of rugby league’s Suliasi Vunivalu from the Melbourne Storm. 

The Fiji league international has agreed to join the Queensland Reds from 2021, leaving Brad Walter to claim on Twitter that “the obsession with recruiting Fijian rugby league wingers sums up everything that is wrong with Australian rugby union”. 

Since the signing was announced, the assumption has been made by many fans that the 24-year-old will opt to play for the Wallabies, just as current John Eales Medal winner Marika Koroibete did.

Both players were born and raised in Fiji but were signed by the Storm as teenagers. Koroibete also represented Fiji in league and many are expecting Vunivalu to make a similar move.

Although Vunivalu’s intentions have not been confirmed, it has not stopped Walter from criticising Rugby Australia and their approach of turning to Fijian-born players to improve their national team. 

Walter even points out that the winger intends to play for Fiji in union, but fans are nonetheless assuming a Wallabies call-up will happen. 

This is not a new occurrence in union or league, neither does it happen exclusively in Australia, but it is a longstanding problem that Pacific Island nations have faced competing against wealthier nations. 

In recent years there has been a backlash in league, particularly with the Tonga team, where players have opted to play for their country of birth, which has strengthened them immeasurably. 

The class on show with the Fiji team at the recent World Cup in Japan was also an indication of what Fiji can offer if they hold onto their players. It is for that reason why Vunivalu may opt to play for Fiji instead. 

The NRL seems to have a seemingly endless stream of wingers emerging, which is obviously very tempting for the Super Rugby franchises. However, from an Australian perspective, the consensus seems to be that the Wallabies’ weakness does not lie in their outside backs and bigger issues are not being addressed.

Regardless of what country Vunivalu ultimately plays for, this will be an intriguing signing. The winger burst onto the scene in 2016 and 2017 and was the NRL’s top try-scorer in both seasons, but he has lost his potency in the last two seasons. 

Having been part of the Blues as a schoolboy in New Zealand, union will not be new to him, and it will be hoped that he will take to the code immediately at the Reds after his final season in league. 

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Swoop for another Fijian winger sees NRL journalist hit out at Rugby Australia