Penrith Panthers rookie Viliame Kikau had one of the most impressive debut performances in years when he ripped through the embattled Tigers a fortnight ago, so much so that the Fijian monster was up until 4am the next morning unable to sleep.
“I couldn’t go to sleep… I was just laying in bed talking to my missus saying it still feels like a dream,” Kikau told Extra Time.
“I never would’ve expected it to come so early in the season but I was really grateful for the opportunity.”
The 21-year-old’s debut on that sunny Sunday afternoon in Campbelltown was something that had to be seen to be believed.
Not only did he bury Tigers and NSW fullback James Tedesco into the turf with one of the tackles of the year, but he also got himself off the end of year nudie run after scoring a well-earned try.
Kikau said he thought reserve grade football was on his radar to start the season, not the NRL.
“My goal during pre-season was to be consistent at training and play as much NSW Cup as I could and then hopefully get the call-up, but it came a lot earlier than I anticipated,” he said.
“The atmosphere, the hype throughout the week, getting prepared and seeing the big crowd – I couldn’t wait to go on and get the first tackle out of the way.”
And it seems Kikau’s performance impressed Panthers coach Anthony Griffin, with the former U20’s Cowboys forward given another chance the following week to do his thing.
Kikau said coach Griffin asks him to increase the game’s intensity whenever he hits the pitch.
“Hook wants me to come in and take the attack and defence to another level as well as bring some energy in the middle,” he said.
“It made me feel good to get another game against the Roosters as it told me I was doing a good job. I thank the coaching staff for having the faith in me to pick me up for another game.”
While Kikau knows first grade can be a long, roller coaster ride, he is prepared to work hard on his defence and listen to his teammates to ensure that he has the best chance possible of having a fulfilling first grade career.
One player who Kikau credits for his blossoming start so far is his former Cowboys teammate James Tamou.
“Jimmy (Tamou) had a big impact on me at the Cowboys,” he said.
“It’s great to be playing with him again.”
While Kikau is off-contract at the end of the season, he isn’t focusing on a new deal just yet. Instead he plans to see how things transpire throughout the course of the year.
“I haven’t really thought about my next contract to be honest… I’m just trying to do my best this year and expect the best at the end of the year,” he said.
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.