Having made his long-awaited return for the Queensland Reds, Suliasi Vunivalu is set to turn his back on big dollars from NRL expansion club the Dolphins to chase a Wallabies World Cup berth.
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 on Friday night.
Managing 50 minutes, Vunivalu showed off his skills in the first half with a deft backhanded flick pass to send Reds teammate Hunter Paisami down the sideline.
After being restricted to just seven games in two seasons, Vunivalu was happy just to get some injury-free minutes on the ground where he enjoyed so much success with the Storm.
“It was a bit emotional,” he told AAP.
“It’s been a long and frustrating process so it was good to be back playing again.
“This is where I played so many games so I was excited to get back home.”
Despite his passion for rugby league, with his former Melbourne Storm teammates Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Christian Welch and Tui Kamikamica in the AAMI Park stands, Vunivalu said next year’s Rugby World Cup in France was still the goal.
Off-contract at the Reds, he has been linked to Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins who enter the NRL next year.
“Yes, I’d love to play in the World Cup,” Vunivalu said.
“This is my last year on my contract so I’m just trying to focus on playing good footy.
“There’s been rumors around (about league) – I’m not sure if my manager’s not telling me anything – but I’m just trying to get back to playing again and let my footy do the talking.”
With a three-Test series against England in July, Vunivalu has been included in a couple of Wallabies camps but due to injury has never been able to push for selection.
While his league roots run deep, his Queensland teammates and coach Brad Thorn also showed their love for the 26-year-old.
Post-match, James O’Connor described Vunivalu as a “weapon”.
Thorn was delighted to see his recruit finally get into some action.
“He’s just a really lovely guy,” Thorn said of Vunivalu.
“The directive for the game was just go out and enjoy your rugby – I didn’t ask to see anything but for him enjoy it and he did that so we will go from here.”