Vunivalu draws Folau-like comparisons
No rookie in the game's history has ever stepped out wearing mismatched fluoroscent pink and yellow boots in just their 10th game in the top grade but Storm captain Cameron Smith says Suliasi Vunivalu can wear whatever he wants if his try-scoring exploits continue.
If you didn't notice Vunivalu by what he was wearing when he ran onto Suncorp Stadium on Friday night you were left in no doubt of his try-scoring prowess after 80 minutes against the Broncos.
His three tries all came via kicks from Cooper Cronk as the Storm exploited an injury to Brisbane winger Corey Oates, with Vunivalu soaring spectacularly into the air over Kodi Nikorima midway through the second half to score his third of the night.
His tally now stands at 16 tries from just 10 appearances and with five doubles and two hat-tricks he is fast closing in on the mark of the 21 tries that Israel Folau scored at the Storm in his rookie season in 2007.
While pointing out their differences Smith can see one striking similarity between Vunivalu and Folau and gave his permission for the 20-year-old to keep stepping out in his fancy footwear.
"They're pretty flashy aren't they?" Smith said of Vunivalu's boots.
"That's the type of player he is so if he keeps scoring doubles and hat-tricks for us then he can wear whatever he wants.
"When he's about 10 foot in the air taking speccys and scoring he does [remind me of Folau].
"He's a different type of player to 'Izzy' and I'm just really pleased for Suli at the moment.
"He's been given an opportunity probably earlier than he expected and probably earlier than what we expected for him as well to be playing first grade with us but he's a wonderful kid.
"He's very respectful around the place to all the guys that have been there for a long time, to the coaches and he just works hard.
"He has got a lot of natural ability about him but he's willing to learn every time he gets on the paddock so I'm really pleased for him with the way he's going at the moment."
Vunivalu's elevation to the top grade came in Round 7 and only on the back of injuries to Will Chambers, Richie Kennar and Young Tonumaipea.
He scored two tries in each of his first three games in the NRL and along with fellow Fijian speedster Marika Koroibete has given the Storm some spectacular strike power out wide.
"Suli was outstanding in the air [against the Broncos] but it's not just kicks he can score tries off either. He's got a great ability to get over the try-line if it's off a pass or a run and Marika's the same," said coach Craig Bellamy.
"They're giving us a whole heap at the moment and giving everyone in the club a lot of satisfaction.
"We backed those guys in and they're giving us a whole heap of reward. They're great kids to watch, they're great kids to coach; Marika is head down and does what you ask of him and Suli is a really respectful kid around the club for a kid his age.
"They just work so hard and give so much so it's a pleasure having those guys in the team."
Bellamy is confident that Cameron Munster will be fit to take his place at fullback when they travel to Newcastle to play the Knights in Round 19 but is not expecting to have Chambers back for at least a couple more weeks from his foot injury.