Wallabies steal code-hopping NRL flyer
AFTER fighting last week to retain star winger Josh Addo-Carr - it turns out Melbourne Storm should have been watching the other wing.
Rugby Australia signed try-scoring freak Suliasi Vunivalu to a two-year-deal, which begins at the end of the 2020 NRL season, on Tuesday.
Vunivalu has signed on with the Queensland Reds and will be available to play for the Wallabies, despite representing Fiji in rugby league.
The Courier-Mail reports Rugby Australia sees Vunivalu as a replacement for sacked code-hopper Israel Folau.
Vunivalu is viewed as a 2023 Rugby World Cup prospect, having almost four years to reach his potential in the 15-a-side code.
With Folau and Rugby Australia returning for more mediation sessions in Melbourne on Wednesday, the governing body delivered a clear message that it was moving on from the former Waratahs and Wallabies star.
Vunivalu becomes new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie's first signing, following the New Zealander's appointment to replace former coach Michael Cheika after the disastrous 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The recruitment of Vunivalu comes after former Melbourne Storm winger Marika Koroibete was last month named the Wallabies' player of the year and awarded the John Eales Medal, having emerged as the best player in an otherwise disappointing campaign in Japan.
Vunivalu will join rising superstar Jordan Petaia and James O'Connor in a star-studded Queensland Reds backline.
"As a group we look forward to welcoming Suliasi Vunivalu back to rugby and to Queensland as a great addition in 2021," Reds coach Brad Thorn said.
"Suliasi grew up playing rugby in NZ before becoming one of the NRL's most exciting players with an awesome ability to find the tryline.
"He brings good experience too with almost 100 NRL games for Melbourne and 12 rugby league Tests for Fiji."
According to the report, Melbourne Storm has not yet ruled out the possibility of allowing Vunivalu to break his contract with the club one year early and allow him to join the Reds for the 2020 Super Rugby season.
It comes after the Storm allowed playmaker Brodie Croft to leave the club one year early.
The club also lost star centre Chris Scott to the Raiders last month.
Last week, however, the Storm declared Addo-Carr would not be leaving.
Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy said he met with Addo-Carr last Thursday in Sydney, where he was holidaying with his family, to confirm the player's commitment to the minor premiers.
There was speculation the NSW State of Origin flyer wanted out of the final two years of his contract to remain in Sydney, with former club Wests Tigers ready to pounce.
The Tigers reportedly yanked a massive offer to Sydney Roosters premiership centre Latrell Mitchell to chase Addo-Carr.
But Donaghy said Addo-Carr wasn't heading home and would be back at training on December 16.
"I can say hand on heart Josh is committed to Storm as much as we're committed to Josh," Donaghy said.
"We don't respond a lot to external noise but given there is quite a bit of commentary at the moment I thought I'd clear that up."