Booze Ban Lifts Bukuya To Newer Height
Vodafone Fijian Bati backrow Jayson Bukuya got off the booze and got himself back to The Shire. Now he’s got a premiership ring, a new deal, a growing young family and is eyeing a maiden maroon jumper. Happy days. Not so much in 2014, when despite being on big bucks at the Warriors, Bukuya and his kin found themselves pining for Cronulla. A release was sought and granted on personal grounds, and Sharks coach Shane Flanagan brought Bukuya back to his “home away from home when I came down from Queensland.” At the end of last year the now 27-year-old gave up the grog. Somehow he stayed off it as Cronulla went understandably wild over the past months, working through 50 years of delayed celebratory drinks. Hardly a happy coincidence, the back-rower is in career best form, has re-signed with Cronulla for another two years and has Queensland coach Kevin Walters tipping him as a 2017 Origin bolter since shunning the sauce.
“I just made the decision to give up alcohol for my own personal reasons, it wasn’t so much for footy,” Bukuya tells foxsports.com.au. “With my faith and a young family now I just wanted to set an example for them. It’s been 12 months now, I’m comfortable with where I’m at. When I was away (from Cronulla) I just missed everything about the place. The mates, the friendships and relationship, the club and the area. I’d been here eight or nine years before and I missed it so much when we left. We got back as soon as possible and it’s all worked out.” A key component of Flanagan’s all-conquering forward rotation, Bukuya is a late bloomer thanks to almost three years early in his career ruined by ankle and shoulder injuries, to the point where he often considered giving it away. Last year Walters included him in the fateful Maroons Emerging Origin camp that saw eight players banned for breaking curfew. Bukuya wasn’t involved, but according to Walters was “bitterly disappointed” with the younger squad members. The mature head on his shoulders, combined with a no-frills 24 tackles and 76 metres a game from the Sharks bench in 2016, has Walters convinced the Norths Aspley junior can cut it in the Origin arena. Bukuya — who captained the Fijian Bati in his 10th Test last year after debuting as a two-game NRL rookie in 2008 — is eyeing both extra responsibility at Cronulla and a crack at the game’s highest level. “I was probably one of the eldest in that camp at 27 so to be a part of that was nice to get some recognition and see the set-up they’ve got, it was unreal,” Bukuya said.
Flanagan is suitably chuffed. He’s re-hooked the one that looked like getting away. The coach’s return from his 12-month ASADA ban two years ago put the club’s darkest hours behind them, and within two weeks Bukuya was back as well. Having missed only four games in the two seasons since, Flanagan is more than happy to push Bukuya’s barrow when it comes to Queensland selection. “We didn’t want to lose Buky in the first place and we put in a real good offer for him,” Flanagan says. “But we were lucky enough to get him back in the end and he loves this club, he loves living in Cronulla and he was outstanding for us all year. If you wanted to pick him in the Queensland side he’d be great coming off the bench.
“He’s got really good leg speed, he’s powerful, and he’s one of the strongest lower bodies in our club. He breaks tackles and can play big minutes if needed, he’s been great since coming back to us.” - Fox Sport