After a stellar first half of the year that saw him become a household name, powerhouse Panthers backrower Viliame Kikau is ready to rip and tear his way through the second half of the season.
While fellow teammates got away from Penrith during their five-day break last week, Kikau decided to cancel a planned trip to the Gold Coast to rest up at home after a gruelling, albeit successful, first 12 rounds of the year.
Speaking with the Weekender after training on Monday, the 23-year-old said the bye came at a good time as he was able to “relax the body”.
“It’s the first time I’ve played week in, week out, NRL footy and the body was getting sore,” Kikau admitted.
“I had a few little niggles like corks on my knees – nothing major, but it was good to get the five days off to rest them up and get some physio.
“It’s good to be back at training with the boys, all freshened up.”
After playing just nine first grade games in his debut season, Kikau hasn’t missed a game in 2018 and is getting better and better as each week rolls around.
Beginning the year in Anthony Griffin’s starting side, the Fijian international made a move to the interchange bench in recent weeks – a switch he is surprisingly relishing.
“It’s not bothering me at all, I’m actually enjoying myself coming off the bench when everyone is tired,” Kikau said.
“I’d played a few 80-minute games in the first few rounds and then injury struck the team and we had to shuffle some things around.
“Hook said he wanted me to come off the bench and bring some energy to the team, and I was more than happy to do that.”
Late last month, during Penrith’s Round 12 win over St George-Illawarra, Kikau was at his devastating best – carrying three Dragons players on his back as he powered over to score his fourth try this season.
Following questions over his fitness and ability to go the distance last season, Kikau admitted he had learned a lot about himself in the past 12 months.
“I’m still learning, I’m still very raw,” he said.
“I’m still learning how to play week in, week out, and how to handle that pressure from everyone. I’m starting to take that into account this year and it’s helping me a lot with my footy.”
With Penrith aiming for four straight wins when they battle the Raiders in Canberra on Friday, Kikau knows he’ll have to step up especially with four of his teammates expected to back up from Origin I.
“I’m not too sure if they’ll play or not, I’d probably be out for two weeks if it were me,” he laughed.
“It’s always tough going to the nation’s capital.
“We treat every game like it’s a semi final these days and we’re all looking forward to Friday’s game.”
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.