Big screen presents
ABOUT 100 people crowded around the television at the home of Suli Vunivalu’s Fijian home last year.
But the Melbourne Storm winger is tipping that number to double later today at Bagasau in Toorak, Suva, as about 1000 people rally behind their favourite son.
“They will put one outside and another TV on the other side,” Vunivalu said. “If they can’t watch it they’ll go to the other side of the house. It gets me pumped. The elders sit in the front and the young ones out the back. To see them supporting me makes me feel happy.”
Vunivalu first bought his family a TV after signing with the Storm in 2014.
Having overcome the heartbreak of losing the 2016 grand final against Cronulla, Vunivalu was quick to break from celebrating with his teammates when the Storm beat North Queensland last year. He had an important call to make.
“I video called them after the game,” Vunivalu said. “Everyone was wearing purple and everyone was happy.
“I’ve seen videos of my family back home. They get around and wear purple. If they don’t have any Storm gear they try and buy anything purple and write Storm on it. “They go pretty crazy back home. “I reckon there will be more now (than a 100 people today). There will be relatives from outside the community coming back just to watch it with my family back home.”
Vunivalu valu grew up playing rugby union, and has seen the transformation of rugby league in his native Fiji first hand. He returned last year as part of a Fijian side who played Australia and PNG in World Cup up warm-up matches.
And he took a special gift with him. m.
“It was as different,” Vunivalu said. “I used to go there before and no-one one knew me. Now we have a few Fijians that play in the NRL L everyone knows you.
“Last year I went back home after winning a premiership everyone e knew me. That was pretty good. Something I’m proud of, winning a premiership. I took my ring back k home to show everyone. I kept an n eye on it and I told my aunty to o lock it away. It’s back here now ow but it was exciting showing g everyone.”
Vunivalu valu may be playing in his third consecutive tive grand final today but it wasn’t until he was 14 that he watched his first game of rugby league. With Fiji dominated ted by rugby union, he was drawn to the 15-a-side game before being snapped apped up by Melbourne.
“Our national game back home is rugby union,” nion,” Vunivalu said. “(The first game I remember watching) was the Storm versus ersus the Eels in the 2009 grand final. It was the first game I watched.
“It’s surreal (to be in) three years in the NRL L and three grand finals. I’m happy to o be here and with how our season went. I’m pretty excited.”
Suliasi VVunivalu and (left) his uncles Oliver Garnett, Garnett Levani Vaganalau and Serupepeli Seruvatu Seruvat show their support in Toorak, Suva, this weeweek. Picture: Jovesa Naisua, AAP