MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy says that while he can’t guarantee rookie wing sensation Suliasi Vunivalu will handle the enormous occasion of his first grand final, he has every reason to believe the Fijian will be fine.
“He has done everything expected of him,” Bellamy says of Vunivalu, who has scored 23 tries in 20 games. “He has gone way beyond expectations, to be quite honest.
“He probably only got a start because of the amount of injuries we had earlier in the year, we didn’t have any wingers left, and he has been tremendous.
“We knew he had a lot of talent, but he has still only played about 40 games of rugby league in his life, so that’s a big learning curve for him – and especially at this level.
“You can all see what a great athlete he is, but he’s a terrific kid, too. He’s really respectful to other people and the game itself, and he’s a really quick learner, a really smart footy player.
“Hopefully, he can top the year off with a good performance on Sunday night.”
Vunivalu, a product of rugby union, made his first-grade debut for the Storm in round seven against Wests Tigers and scored two tries in a 19-18 win.
He scored doubles in each of his first three games and after 11 games he had already scored a whopping 17 tries, including five doubles and two trebles.
His average has since decreased and he has scored six tries in his last nine games, including four in one game – against Manly. He has scored two tries in his last four games.
Vunivalu couldn’t expect to keep scoring tries at a freakish rate forever and the opposition would obviously be paying him more attention after his early exploits, but he remains a danger man against Cronulla at ANZ Stadium if he gets the ball in space or the kicks to his wing are accurate.