Vunivalu closes in on perfect season
Every now and again a player comes into the NRL and takes their opportunity with two hands, but only once in a blue moon does a player come in and grab their opportunity so hard their hands hurt.
In 2016, that player was Suliasi Vunivalu.
The Fijian winger had to wait until Round 7 to make his debut against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval, and only featured because first choice winger Young Tonumaipea was injured.
However, it only took Vunivalu 60 seconds to score his first NRL try, and just three weeks into his career he became the first player in NRL history to score three doubles in their first three games.
Since then the Fijian has scored 17 more tries to take his total to 23 for the season, and leads the league in that category.
The 20-year-old has blossomed quickly and is now a key component of the Storm's backline, and Vunivalu is rightfully pleased with the year he and his teammates have enjoyed.
"It's been a good year for me, this is why we play the game," Vunivalu told NRL.com.
"We play to be in the finals and to contest for the trophy, so it's been a good year for me and I'm pretty happy with it."
Vunivalu was brought into the Storm's system in 2014 after completing his schooling in Auckland, although injuries cruelled the youngster's first two years in Melbourne.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy – who called Vunivalu 'Mr.Suli' after his debut match because he couldn't pronounce his name – praised the winger during the week and is thrilled with his debut year.
"He's done everything that we've expected of him, and he's gone way, way above expectations," Bellamy said.
"He probably only got a start because of injuries, we didn't have any wingers left. He's been tremendous, we knew he had a lot of talent… I think he's only played about 40 games of rugby league so that's a big learning curve for him, especially at this level.
"He's done a tremendous job, we all see how good of an athlete he is but he's a terrific kid too, really respectful of what we're about and he's a smart footy player, so hopefully he can top the year off with a good performance on Sunday."
Not only does Sunday's decider mark the final match of the season, but it also brings fellow winger and Fijian compatriot Marika Koroibete's time to an end at the Storm.
Koroibete will move to rugby union next season and join the Melbourne Rebels, and not only does Vunivalu want to win the premiership for himself and his team, he wants to do it for his mate.
"It's going to be a special one, Marika has given a lot for the club," Vunivalu said.
"He brings in energy, takes the team out of trouble during games, so we'll play for him and hope to send him off in a good way."