‘Weapon’ Vunivalu set to pursue World Cup dream amid league return talks

After making his long-awaited return for the Queensland Reds, Suliasi Vunivalu is set to turn his back on big bucks at NRL expansion club Dolphins to chase a World Cup spot for the Wallabies.

The star winger spent nearly a year on the sidelines, requiring two rounds of hamstring surgery, but was part of Queensland’s four-point win over Melbourne in their Super Rugby Pacific clash at AAMI Park Friday night.

Managing 50 minutes, Vunivalu showed his skills in the first half with a deft backhand pass to send Reds team-mate Hunter Paisami onto the touchline.

After being limited to just seven games in two seasons, Vunivalu was happy to get a few injury-free minutes on the pitch where he enjoyed so much success with the Storm.

“It was kind of emotional,” he told AAP.

“It’s been a long and frustrating process, so it was good to be back to play.

“It’s where I’ve played so many games, so I was delighted to come home.”

Despite his passion for rugby league, with former Melbourne Storm teammates Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Christian Welch and Tui Kamikamica in the stands at AAMI Park, Vunivalu said next year’s Rugby World Cup in France was always the goal.

Out of contract with the Reds, he has been linked with Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins who will enter the NRL next year.

“Yes, I would like to play in the World Cup,” said Vunivalu.

“It’s the last year of my contract, so I’m just trying to focus on good jogging.

“There have been rumors around (about the league) – I don’t know if my manager isn’t telling me anything – but I’m just trying to get back to playing and let my football do the talking.”

With a three-Test series against England in July, Vunivalu was included in a couple of Wallabies camps, but due to injury he was never able to push for selection.

While his roots in the league run deep, his Queensland teammates and manager Brad Thorn have also shown their love for the 26-year-old.

After the match, James O’Connor described Vunivalu as a “weapon”.

Thorn was thrilled to see his rookie finally take action.

“He’s just a really lovely guy,” Thorn said of Vunivalu.

“The directive for the game was just to go out and enjoy your rugby – I didn’t ask to see anything but to enjoy it and he did so we’ll get out of here.”


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