Suliasi Vunivalu will join the Queensland Reds in 2021.
Suliasi Vunivalu will join the Queensland Reds in 2021.

Real reason Storm star Vunivalu fast-tracked $1.8m rugby switch

Melbourne try-scoring sensation Suliasi Vunivalu says injury fast-tracked his shock signing with rugby union, where he will head at the end of this NRL season.

The 24-year-old winger always had it in his mind to return to the 15-man game which he played as a youngster in Fiji and decided the time was right when the Queensland Reds came knocking with a substantial offer.

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Vunivalu reportedly signed a deal in late November worth $1.8 million with the Reds and Rugby Australia.

While he didn't comment on the size of the deal, he said hamstring issues, which ruled him out of the Storm's painful preliminary final loss to Canberra last year as well as the World Cup Nines, helped him make the decision.

"It was a hard decision as I've been here six years and wanted to continue but I've got to do what's best for me and my family," Vunivalu said.

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"I wasn't going back this early but I thought that most rugby players don't play for that long and injury-wise I've had a couple of hamstrings so I thought it was the best offer for me and my family."

As well as Vunivalu, fellow flyer Josh Addo-Carr will also depart at season's end but the pair hadn't spoken about it being their final season.

"We haven't concentrated on leaving, we've got our final year to make the most of it," Vunivalu said.

"Our focus will just be on the Storm and nothing more than that."

Vunivalu will have his first hit out of the year in Melbourne's final NRL pre- season trial against North Queensland in Cranbourne on Saturday.

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The Storm will be at full-strength, with skipper Cameron Smith, State of Origin stars Cameron Munster, Addo-Carr, Felise Kaufusi and Dale Finucane plus Kiwi internationals Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and Jahrome Hughes.

Only three first-grade regulars will miss the match through injury - Brandon Smith (facial fracture), Christian Welch (knee) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (hamstring strain).

 

Suliasi Vunivalu’s hamstring troubles contributed to his rugby defection.
Suliasi Vunivalu’s hamstring troubles contributed to his rugby defection.

It's the Storm's last hit out prior to their round one clash with Manly in Sydney.

Marion Seve and Justin Olam will start in the centres as coach Craig Bellamy looks to replace Will Chambers and Curtis Scott.

Tui Kamikamica takes Asofa-Solomona's usual front-row starting spot, with Harry Grant inheriting Brandon Smith's regular No.14 jersey.

 

Melbourne Storm: Ryan Papenhuyzen, Suliasi Vunivalu, Marion Seve, Justin Olam, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Tui Kamikamica, Felise Kaufusi, Kenny Bromwich, Dale Finucane. Res: Harry Grant, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Max King, Albert Vete, Tom Eisenhuth, Darryn Schonig, Nicho Hynes, Brenko Lee, Ryley Jacks, Cooper Johns, Chris Lewis.



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