New Penrith Panthers prop Viliame Kikau almost can’t believe how much his life has changed in such a short space of time.
Just under two years ago the now 20-year-old was living in his native Fiji playing centre in a local rugby union competition before the North Queensland Cowboys discovered him, turned him into a prop and a downright wrecking machine.
After enjoying two outstanding seasons with North Queensland’s Holden Cup team – scoring 32 tries in 42 games – Kikau decided to take his monster talent elsewhere, signing with the Panthers on a two year deal.
Speaking with the Weekender, Kikau opened up about the challenges of moving away from home and finding his way in a brand new sport.
“This is only my second year in Australia, it’s a huge culture shock, I go through difficulties every single day but I take it as a challenge and just get on with it,” he admitted.
“I played rugby union my whole life before the Cowboys scouted me from Fiji. It was a good opportunity for me to develop my skills and I’ve learnt a lot.”
Currently sidelined recovering from recent ankle surgery, Kikau said he couldn’t wait to join his new teammates and prepare for the season ahead.
“It’s hard at the moment, I’d rather be outside passing the ball around with the boys but I can’t do that much,” he said.
“I got my injury over a month ago; it was syndesmosis in my ankle. In another six weeks they’ll remove the screw and I’ll be back running again.”
Weighing in at 119kg and standing nearly two metres tall, Kikau was one of the most highly sought-after young forwards on the market, garnering plenty of attention from rival clubs before Panthers boss Phil Gould came calling.
“Deciding my future was a hard decision to make, the Cowboys offered me a contract as did some other clubs, but when Penrith came up, it grabbed my attention,” Kikau revealed.
“During a day off in Townsville, Gus paid for my flight to come down. He took me around the club to have a look and introduced me to all the staff.”
Poised to make his NRL debut in 2016, the reigning Holden Cup Prop of the Year said he’ll be working hard to achieve that goal.
“We’ve got heaps of front rowers at the club and I’m going to try and fight hard for a position in the team,” Kikau said.
“If I get a run next year, I’ll do my best and make all the fans proud.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.