Who can stop Penrith’s new Puletua?
THE frightening sight of Viliame Kikau in full flight against Parramatta has invoked memories of Panthers premiership favourite Tony Puletua.
Puletua played at 112kg and was one of the biggest backrowers in the game when his barnstorming runs over the top of smaller opponents played a big part in delivering Penrith the 2003 title.
Fifteen years later, Kikau, who weighs a staggering 120kg, looks ready to play a similar - and just as effective - role out wide for the mountain men.
The prop was brilliant coming off the bench against the Eels, and been named to start in the backrow against South Sydney on Saturday at Panthers Stadium.
The powerhouse Fijian made such an impression when he first arrived in Townsville to play for North Queensland's Holden Cup team, Cowboys international prop James Tamou made a point of getting to the ground extra early just to watch him.
Tamou was naturally delighted when he departed the tropics to be reunited with 22-year-old 'Billy' at Penrith.
"I would get to those games early, just to watch him,'' Tamou said.
"I remember he was already weighing about 110kg back then.
"He was a wide-running front-rower, and he was their highest tryscorer.
"We're now seeing what most of us here already know and what we always see at training. This year I think he will really cement his position.''
Cowboys officials were shattered when Penrith supremo Phil Gould snuck under their guard and lured the former rugby centre south.
He showed glimpses of his potential last year before he won plenty of admirers with his efforts for Fiji at the World Cup.
"I thought at the World Cup he was outstanding, he came back in really good shape, trained well, and was a handful on the weekend the big fella,'' skipper Peter Wallace said.
"He's been here a few years, he's feeling more comfortable, he feels like he belongs in the side, and so he should because he's earned his spot and everyone saw how good he was on the weekend.''
Puletua himself was glad another giant body was being used with so much success on the edge, and said of Kikau: "When I saw him on the weekend and the damage he did coming off the bench, it was great to see and so satisfying for all of us Panthers fans.
"He looks ready to have a big year for Penrith.
"He'll be very effective out wide, especially when targeting the areas I used to love targeting, which was around the halves and outside backs. He'll be very effective if they use him like they did on the weekend.
"Even if he can get halfway through the defensive line and then pop an offload, he'll cause a lot of damage for a lot of teams.''