When the full-time siren sounded at ANZ Stadium last Saturday evening, a rumble could be felt from the middle of the Pacific. No, it wasn’t a quake or tremor, it was Viliame Kikau’s Fijian village erupting with joy.
Just hours after the Panthers qualified for their first NRL Grand Final in 17 years, Kikau spent the early part of Sunday morning replying to messages and chatting with family back home.
Even though Kikau missed the clash with the Rabbitohs due to suspension, he said he felt every single emotion a fan endures on a weekly basis.
“I was more nervous for this game than when I’m playing. When the Rabbitohs were attacking our line with five minutes to go, I couldn’t watch… I just had my head down,” Kikau told the Weekender.
“I was telling my family how nervous I was, and they said: ‘now you know how we feel’. When the game was over, I was so relieved and so happy for the boys.”
Kikau’s happiness and relief was the result of a harrowing two weeks for the 25-year-old, who had to sit out of the biggest game of his career after being suspended for a Dangerous Throw.
The 2020 Dally M Second Rower of the Year said he was full of emotion and negative thoughts when the one-match sentence was handed down.
“When I walked out of the judiciary hearing, which was held at the Panthers Academy over Zoom, I felt like I let the whole team and club down,” Kikau said.
“On the car ride home, I nearly cried – just thinking how it was a do-or-die game and we wouldn’t have another chance if we lost.”
With his emotions all over the place, Kikau returned to the Academy the next day with a much more positive mindset after his teammates flooded him with support.
“I was surprised when the boys walked up to me. They all told me to keep my head up, get my body right and that they’ll get this win – it made me feel good,” he said.
“Even though I wasn’t playing, I still tried my heart out at training last week… just trying to help the boys out in any way that I could.”
More than three weeks since his last game, fans are expecting huge things from the loveable Fijian in this Sunday’s Grand Final. A real x-factor with and without the ball, a refreshed and rejuvenated Kikau is a massive chance of pulling off a Clive Churchill Medal-winning performance.
Kikau said if wasn’t for the pandemic and border closures, he’d have his whole family at ANZ Stadium this weekend for the decider.
“It’s really hard because, if everything was normal, I definitely would have flown Mum and Dad over for the game, instead she’s going to put a projector outside our house on the porch so everyone can watch,” he said.
“Luckily one of my older brothers lives in Penrith with his family, so he’ll be there on Sunday cheering us on.”
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.