Importance of hard work

Fijian born Melbourne Storm wing, Suliasi Vunivalu breaks through the Penrith Panthers' defence to score a try during their 2020 NRL grand final at the ANZ Stadium. Picture: NRL.com

When Melbourne Storm flyer Suliasi Vunivalu intercepted a loping pass by Panthers’ halfback Nathan Cleary to his outside men, there was no stopping him on his run to the tryline. It actually turned the grand final around, and rocked the Panthers’ attack.

It was the difference that eventually sealed the clash for the Storm, against a Panthers side that only found its bearings in the second spell.

It was a National Rugby League grand final with contrasting halves. The Storm dominated the first spell and almost came undone in a second spell that saw a resurgence in the Panthers’ attack.

Whether it was a quiet word on the side, pre-match, by his coach Craig Bellamy, or experience, Vunivalu sensed an opening, and a clear route to the tryline.

The rest, as they say, is history. He ran with purpose. He was confident, and did not have to look back to get his bearing. The tryline was inviting. “I just kept running,” Vunivalu told The Daily Telegraph.

“Usually at times like that I will look back. But I told myself ‘look in front. Keep running’.” His 90-metre run will no doubt go down in the annals of NRL history.

It was a game changer, well eventually! It made a difference in the 26-20 win. It was his swan song.

It was a perfect ending to a six year rugby league career, and a positive step into rugby union when he links up with the Queensland Reds in the Super Rugby competition next season. Back home, at Bagasau in Toorak, Suva, his family and friends celebrated.

They had made no bones about where their loyalty lay. They’d basically painted their little community purple. In fact there is a store there named after the Storm.

The people of Bagasau cheered for their star, fisted the air in jubilation at the end of the grand final, and took Vunivalu’s call straight afterwards. It was one for the ages. What a beauty! What a game!

When all things are said and done, Vunivalu was an apt example of what Fijians can achieve at the highest levels of the sport.

From humble beginnings in Suva, he has made a name for himself, standing out as a reflection of perseverance, commitment, dedication and a passion for hard work.

There are no short cuts along the path to the top. The fact that there were two other Fijians in the grand final must serve as motivation for our youngsters aspiring for big things in sports.

Api Koroisau was at hooker for the Panthers, playing opposite a man who is arguably the best rake in the business, Cameron Smith, the Storm skipper.

Big Viliame Kikau was at second row for the Panthers, and was obviously under heavy scrutiny by the Storm defence.

As we look forward to the Autumn Tests by the Flying Fijians in rugby union next month, we are reminded about the impact Fijians can have on these tough contact sports, and at the highest level. Our youngsters need a firm base to launch careers from.

They need the support of their loved ones, and they need to be committed and dedicated. Vunivalu, Koroisau and Kikau stand out as role models, and are reflections of what hard work can deliver.

Congratulations are certainly in order.

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