Try-scoring sensations Suli and Sivo share unique Bati bond

Maika Sivo or Suliasi Vunivalu in full flight down their sideline - a sight to soothe the sorest eyes.

Fiji Bati coach Brandon Costin reckons their work in hotel hallways is just as impressive.

Two of the game's finest entertainers go head-to-head in Saturday's AAMI Park semi-final, Sivo as 2019's leading try-scorer, Vunivalu holding the same titles from 2016 and 2017.

But for all their raw power and pyrotechnics on the paddock, the true sight to behold is when they come together in national colours for Costin.

"When they get together in Bati camp, it's like a going home experience for them," Costin – the first full-time coach of the Bati – tells NRL.com.

"Those guys that come from our villages and through to the NRL, not the boys that qualify [for Fiji] through their heritage, but the born and raised boys Vunivalu, Sivo, Vili Kikau, [Mikaele] Ravalawa and [Tui] Kamikamika, it's so special for them.

"They sit down together, they play guitars, they sing hymns.

"You walk out of your room in the hotel and there's four or five of these big boys just sitting in a circle in the middle of a hallway. Talking, playing games and singing.

"They're all just so down to earth and so humble, they're just a pleasure to be around as people, let alone coach as players. God comes first in Fiji. So when we're in Fiji Bati camp, God is the priority.

"They share something special those local players. There's a connection that's natural with them and I find as coach I don't have to do team bonding or team building because those boys are aligned under similar beliefs, and they all fit together so well and love being around each other."

Sivo's first game for the Bati was this year's mid-season Test against Lebanon, a 58-14 thumping that saw he and Vunivalu bag two tries apiece.

Sivo was moved to tears by representing his country for the first time - yet another highlight in a scarcely believable breakout year.

Speaking to reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday, Vunivalu recalled how the fantastic footage of Parramatta flying in Sivo's father Joeli, and surprising his son by marching into Eels training, pulled at his own heartstrings.

"It made me wish I could get my parents over to watch, they've been to my debut game and Anzac Day, just that," Vunivalu said.

"I just wish they could come over to watch me in the finals."

A proud nation will be tuning in as the Storm host Parramatta on Saturday.

 

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Sivo and Vunivalu found their way to the bright lights of the NRL via back roads.

Vunivalu left home in Bagasau, Suva, at 16 to play rugby in Auckland, Storm recruiters wondering where he went for 12 months before he resurfaced again on a schoolboy tour to Melbourne.

Sivo of course came to the Eels via Gundagai, western Sydney feeder competitions and arch-rivals Penrith, with some 100-odd tries in four seasons fast-tracking him to the top level of a game he only picked up in 2015.

Both have recounted how hundreds of family, friends and Fiji enthusiasts will pack in around the closest TV they can find to watch their countrymen light up the NRL.

Plenty wear purple solely because of Vunivalu. But he says Sivo's 22 tries this year will spark a nation-wide wardrobe change.

"He'll be sending all the Parra jerseys back home after this season, he's the new No.1 (Fijian)," Vunivalu said.

"Everyone in Fiji loves supporting any Fijian that puts a jersey on, especially at NRL level.

"I know everyone will be supporting at home. Especially from his village and where I'm from."