TOP PRAISE FOR BATI REPS
Players hailed in build-up to 2021 Rugby League World Cup
■Vi●iame’s a pretty special physical specimen - especially when you’re 118 kilos and can do what he can do-Ivan Cleary ■With the game on the line, Kikau came up with the gamedeciding play-Fox League commentator Cooper Cronk
Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Rear Admiral, Viliame Naupoto, is determined the Vodafone Fijian Bati will be a force at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England.
The Fiji National Rugby League board chairman made the comment as Fijians continued to make an impressive showing in round six of the NRL.
On Thursday, the Saifiti brothers, Daniel and Jacob, played a lead role in the Knights 27-6 demolition of the Broncos.
And he was equally impressed with Friday’s match, in which Viliame ‘Bill’ Kikau scored the winning try for the Panthers, in the 21-14 victory against Suliasi Vunivalu’s Storm.
Also featuring for the Panthers was Saunaka, Ba native, Api Koroisau.
With scores locked at 14-14 with 17 minutes to play in Campbelltown, Kikau pulled off the match-defining play when he charged onto a shallow Nathan Cleary bomb, to score.
“I’m so happy to see our Fijian boys playing well,” Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto said.
“Our strategy is for them to enhance their fitness and skill sets playing in the NRL and it is very encouraging to see them playing well.
“Their performance has really boosted our preparations building up to next year’s RLWC.”
Bau, Tailevu native Kikau put on another incredible performance and head coach Ivan Cleary may have found the way to unleash the rampaging Fijian.
Kikau has been the centre of Penrith’s attack for the past couple of years, lethal on the left edge with his brutal right-hand fend and explosive power.
The constant criticism has been that Cleary’s men have been overreliant on the 119-kilogramme beast.
He gave Kikau an 11-minute rest, bringing Billy Burns on until Melbourne started to fight their way back into the contest.
"It's a great effort to beat Melbourne at any time so we're pretty happy," Panthers coach Cleary told nrl.com.
"Viliame's a pretty special physical specimen - especially when you're 118 kilos and can do what he can do. "I just think his intensity when he's been out on the field has really improved over the past three weeks.
"He looked a bit fatigued at various stages but it was good to bring him back on.”
Fox League commentator Cooper Cronk said: “I actually like the move from Ivan Cleary. He’s been playing Kikau for long minutes.
“20 minutes left in this game, he’s had 10-15 minutes on the bench. “With the game on the line, Kikau came up with the game-deciding play.
“It’s a masterstroke from coach Cleary.”
Round six results: Knights 27-6 Broncos, Rabbitohs 40-12 Warriors, Panthers 21-14 Storm.
Melbourne Storm winger, Suliasi Vunivalu (middle), is flanked by Penrith Panthers players, Api Koroisau (left) and Viliame Kikau.