Fiji set to trump NZ for Vunivalu's services
Storm sensation Suliasi Vunivalu has been dubbed the Fijian Flyer since he burst onto the scene 12 months ago, and after some conjecture surrounding eligibility it appears as though he's on track to represent the Bati when they take on Tonga as part of the Pacific Test triple-header on May 6.
Born in Fiji, Vunivalu moved to New Zealand as a teenager where he was in the Auckland Blues' rugby union system before deciding to link up with the Melbourne Storm in 2014.
The explosive winger has developed into one of the best finishers in the game since making his debut last season and looks set to earn his Fiji debut in the May Test despite some reported interest from the Kiwis.
"There was a whisper that New Zealand had made some enquiries because I think he'd spent a little bit of time as a student over there," Fiji coach Mick Potter told NRL.com following a chat with Vunivalu on Tuesday afternoon.
"As far as I know, he said he's going to be playing for us in May so that's all that matters. His form has been outstanding from the games I've been watching.
"He didn't pledge his allegiance or anything like that, but he's looking forward to getting a run for Fiji – as long as he's fit, obviously. He's got a few games to go before the Test against Tonga.
"He's going to be a fantastic asset to our squad and I'm looking forward to working with him."
 Vunivalu Suliasi - Storm
Speaking to NRL.com on Saturday following the Storm's 30-26 win over the Sea Eagles, Vunivalu was quick to downplay any suggestions he was a walk-up starter for the Fijian side.
"I've got no comment on that. I'm just focussing on NRL at the moment for the Storm," Vunivalu said.
Instead, the 21-year-old wanted to focus on his incredible record at Lottoland that has seen him score six tries from two matches – four in 2016 and a double on the weekend – with all of those tries coming in the first half of the respective games.
"I think it's my favourite ground after AAMI Park!" he said.
"Teams always come back strongly in the second half and I'm sure their coach would have told them to watch out for the threats on the outside. You can't always score tries but I'm just really happy for the tries in the first half."
It wasn't just Melbourne fans on their feet when Vunivalu soared through the air to pull down a Cooper Cronk cross-field kick to spectacularly cross for his second try of the afternoon.
It was a play reminiscent of Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Matt King and Matt Duffie flying through the air to score, and Vunivalu revealed the aerial acrobatics at the Storm were no fluke.
"We've been practising plays like that a lot through the pre-season. The outside backs have been working hard on that so it's really good for that to come off in a game," he said.
"I practised my jumping skills in Fiji so I was lucky that I came to the right club in Melbourne because they focus a lot of time on kicking for their wingers."
Vunivalu isn't the only NRL star on Potter's radar, with the Bati coach keeping an eye on Gold Coast Titans fullback Jarryd Hayne who has been named on an extended bench this week after missing more than a month of footy with an ankle injury.
Potter revealed Hayne was next to no chance of playing in the mid-season Test but confirmed he would gladly consider him for Fiji's World Cup campaign at the end of 2017 if he was made available.
"I've spoken to Jarryd but he's busted at the moment so unfortunately he's unavailable for May," Potter said.
"If he is fit in the next week or so the club will probably be reluctant to give him a week to play with Fiji when he's only been back a week or so, which I understand from an NRL coaching point of view.
"He's keen to be with Fiji and help them along which is great for the Bati brand.
"If he's fit around that time of year [for the World Cup] then he'll definitely be in contention for the Bati squad."