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Fijians To Watch

Fijians To Watch
Kane Evans
February 12
07:10 2015

There are over 32 Fiji-born and Fijian heritage players contracted by NRL and RFL (England) professional clubs. And nearly all of them with NRL senior and Under-20 squads should light up the NRL competition in 2015. There are also those who need to step up after sustaining injuries in 2014. And of course some ‘key rookies’ that could get NRL or Super League game time and are touted as stars of the futures.

STARS FOR 2015

Marika Koroibete – once touted as the ‘next Lote Tuqiri,’ the Fijian flyer could well be one of the fastest wingers in the NRL. After being recruited from the Fijian U19, he scored  22 tries in 26 U20 games with Wests Tigers in 2011 and 2012, but also was given an NRL opportunity in 2012 beginning with a bang – seven tries in six NRL games, including four in one match. Unfortunately, he had an injury disrupted 2013 season (still scored 5 in 9) and start to 2014, but a mid-season switch to Storm could well ignite his career again – he scored 6 in 10 NRL games.

Sisa Waqa – More often than not, when players shine under a super coach at a great side then leave for elsewhere they sometimes drop off the radar or look out of form. Sisa after four seasons at Melbourne Storm scored a very solid 41 tries in 67 NRL games.

Semi Radradra – People often forget, Semi has only had three seasons playing rugby league (2012 in the U20s and 2013-14 in the NRL). In that time, he has become the game’s best winger at only 22 years old, leading the NRL for tries in 2014 and being named the Dally M Winger of the year in a side whose attention was dominated by Fijian-Australian, Jarryd Hayne.

Fijian-Australian “Bruise Brothers” – SIMS

Tariq and Korbin are now both at Newcastle Knights, Tariq is already close to being up there but at the Cowboys he was alongside or behind many State of Origin, Kiwi and Kangaroos forwards, while now at Newcastle he will should be one of their forward leaders.

He will shine under someone familiar and a different game plan, in former Fiji Bati coach Rick Stone. How’s this for a formidable back row – Tariq Sims, Jeremy Smith and Beau Scott?

At 23 year old, Korbin is the youngest of the three brothers is a highly rated and big hitting young prop. After a few prop departures at Knights, aside from experience in Snowden and Fa’alogo, they are left with a fairly young, but talented prop options.

With a big preseason, improved discipline, but damaging attitude and hopefully securing a starting position, Korbin could really meet his potential and mature as a leader amongst an exciting young team.

Ashton, while no longer in the Super League, he was really showing his underrated quality among a strong Cowboys pack and probably had his best season to date in the NRL.

With improved minutes and fresh environment at a very strong Warrington Wolves side – he could well help them earn their first premiership in 60 years.

Akuila Uate – It’s hard to think he is still only 27 years of old but despite having a ‘quieter’ 2014 due to a season shortened by injury, he still scored 12 tries in 15 NRL games.

The Knights had a poor year last season affected by issues but with a few key recruits and a return to the Knights attacking attitude, he could be one of the leading try scorer again this year.

STEP IT UP

Apisai Koroisau – won an NRL Premiership after a great performance in last year’s Grand Final while Kiwi hooker Issac Luke was suspended – he’s moved to Penrith Panthers and has to again contend selection against one of the leading attacking hookers in the game, James Segeyaro. Reportedly, Api has had a pre-season, so he could see a regular utility bench spot.

Kane Evans – down the pecking order in a star- studded Sydney Roosters forward pack – in recent years he has received limited opportunities for NRL game time, but after a couple of experienced forward departures, the highly rated younger prop should be rewarded with a regular bench spot.

Kevin Naiqama – throughout four seasons in the NRL he has received very limited and irregular NRL opportunities having been stuck behind State of Origin and Test playing wingers and fullbacks.

He has made the move to Wests Tigers to try and oust fellow young attacking players for a fullback or wing spot and he impressed in the Auckland Nines with both his defense and attack.

Jacob Loko – still only 22 years old, Loko had two season ending injuries in the top flight with the Eels in 2011 and 2012 before making his mark in 2013 and then he again had another knee injury last season. He has made the move to the Bulldogs and had been touted as possibly earning the open fullback position, before off-field issues were raised. He is seen as a damaging ball runner and has potential star qualities.

Jayson Bukuya/Junior Roqica – both at Sharks, Roqica is coming off a season where he debuted in a club that was plagued with on-field and off-field problems (injuries & the scandal) – Petero Civoniceva thinks he’s in for a big year.

Bukuya returns to the Sharks from the Warriors, he may have to earn a starting spot the hard way but he definitely needs to step it up after a ‘quiet year’ at Warriors and help return the Sharks to the finals.

ROOKIES

Suliasi Vunivalu – A relatively unknown Fijian born winger, Siliasi was recruited for the Melbourne Storm’s U20 Thunderbolts for the 2014 season from Auckland’s St Kentigern College (rugby school). Within a year he has quickly risen from a new U20 player, to scoring 6 tries in 9 NYC Under-20 matches and continuing his try scoring form with call ups Storms’ QLD Cup and NSW Cup affiliates in 2014, before injury cut his season short.

He has now been promoted to Storm’s fulltime NRL squad (he is still only 20 this year), but faces stiff competition to make his NRL debut as he is currently behind international experienced young wingers in Marika Koroibete, Mahe Fonua, Matt Duffie and Young Tonumaipea.

Waqa Blake – Fijian born Penrith Panthers centre Waqa Blake could well earn an NRL call up in round one with Jamal Idris currently injured. Blake only 21 years of age is already having comparisons to the likes of superstars, such as Greg Inglis by the Australian media, big, strong and has speed to burn, he has huge potential.

He has already represented Fiji Bati and NSW Residents (NSW Cup) representative teams in 2014, but could well face a tug-of-war in future as he played his junior rugby league in Perth and has played for the Junior Kangaroos.

Willis Meehan/ Regan Campbell-Gillard

Both are very highly rated young Fijian-Australians and huge props at only 22 (RCG) and 20 year of age (Meehan) this year. Campbell-Gillard represented Fiji Bati in 2014 and made the 2013 NYC Team of the Year, but also Junior Kangaroos in 2013, and is rated as one of the “hardest hitters” in the NSW Cup and given an opportunity in the NRL soon could have a very bright future.

While, Willis Meehan is also very highly rated and a powerful young athlete, he is already being rated as a potential heavyweight boxing world champion and a potential NRL star forward, despite only still being 19 years old.

Stat of the Week – Akuila Uate has scored the most tries for Fiji, 12 tries in 11 internationals for Fiji.He’s also only three tests away from Wes Naiqama (14) who has been the most capped times for Fiji.

Did you know? – NRL is less than a month away! Round One kicks off on  March 5 on Fiji One and it’s a blockbuster – the Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Feedback: sportsdesk@fijisun.com.fj

 

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