No second-year blues for Storm try-scoring machine
FIJIAN sensation Suliasi Vunivalu knew he would be targeted after scoring 23 tries as a rookie last year.
But the 21-year-old Melbourne Storm flyer has not let the extra attention weigh him down.
"When I come into the middle trying to get carries I think I'm being targeted more,” Vunivalu said.
"I can hear my name. They're (opposition) calling my name. 'Vunivalu's in, Vunivalu's in'.”
After a slow start, Vunivalu has rocketed up the overall tryscorer standings with 11 in as many games this year, including four doubles.
The impressive haul includes two of the three quickest tries this season, scoring inside two minutes against Manly (71 seconds) and Newcastle (98 seconds).
"I'm very happy with my form ... got to stay consistent,” Vunivalu said.
"It's a long season, just got to stay fit and play every game.”
Canberra Raider Jordan Rapana leads the NRL with 13 tries, closely followed by Vunivalu (11), Josh Roberts (10) and boom Storm recruit Josh Addo-Carr (9).
"It's really nice to have that competition (with Addo-Carr), that shows how good our attack is and especially our outside backs,” Vunivalu said.
"All the work comes from the middle and we have that one opportunity on the edge to finish tries.”
Storm football director Frank Ponissi yesterday lauded Vunivalu for his ability to take his chances.
The Fijian has scored 34 tries in 32 games since making a surprise debut in Round 7 last year as injuries depleted Storm stocks. He has not been dropped since, only missing one game early in the season with a shoulder injury.
"He's just got a really strong appetite to score tries,” Ponissi said.
"He loves scoring them so when he gets a chance he just takes it with both hands ... some players, they don't take their opportunity.
"He takes it nine out of 10 times ... that's through a physical presence as we've seen in some cases he basically runs over the top (of players).”
Ponissi said Vunivalu worked "extremely hard” in the preseason - the first in four years not hampered by injury - to safeguard against second-year syndrome.
"I think second-year syndrome is a bit of myth to be honest,” Ponissi said.
"It's mainly because players get complacent after their first year of success, whereas Suli has actually worked harder the second year than he did the first year.”