Big screen presents

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - 2018 GRAND FINAL - MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

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

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