After an NRL debut, a Premiership and now 100 games of first grade footy, loveable Panthers star Viliame Kikau has admitted it will “hurt” to leave the club at the end of the year, as he embarks on the next chapter of his career.
The 26-year-old Fijian powerhouse, who will join the Bulldogs on a monster four-year deal from next season, is one of Penrith’s most recognisable and popular characters.
Kikau’s bleached blonde mohawk can be seen from the ‘nosebleeds’ at any stadium and his rampaging hit-ups are feared right across the league.
With his six-year tenure at the Panthers ending later this year, Kikau said it’s very important for him to leave the club on a good note and perhaps with another Premiership ring on his finger.
“A lot of people have told me, ‘You don’t want to be leaving on bad terms’. I told the club, ‘This year I’m going to put my best foot forward’. Whatever the club wants from me, I’ll do it,” he told the Weekender.
“I’m going to do my best this year because this club has done a lot for me and it’s going to hurt to leave at the end of the year.
“I’ve made friends and family for life. That’s something I’m going to hold special in my heart – this club and this place, Penrith. My first born was born here, so we definitely want to call Penrith home.”
Last week Panthers supporters and the rugby league world in general got an incredible insight into how much Kikau and the Penrith club mean to one another via an emotional seven-minute video, which has so far garnered more than one million views online.
Prior to his 100th NRL game last Friday night, the Panthers secretly organised for members of Kikau’s family to be flown from Fiji to celebrate the huge achievement.
His loving brother Jope – Kikau’s biggest fan – even presented him with his special milestone jersey in the dressing sheds the day before, causing a wave of emotion from everyone watching on.
“Everyone has had a watch of the video now and have seen how special it was. It was all a surprise, I had no idea it was coming,” Kikau admitted.
— Penrith Panthers 🏆 (@PenrithPanthers) March 17, 2022
“I was just thinking one of the coaches was going to present me with my 100th jersey, but to have my brother there was really special… it just hit me.”
Speaking with the Weekender at Panthers training on Tuesday, Jope Kikau said he had to keep his covert operation to Australia from his brother for two weeks.
“We got our airfares paid two weeks before, so we had to keep it a secret,” he said.
“It was an emotional experience for me as well, seeing him play his 100th test. It’s amazing to see how much he’s achieved.”
With his family watching from the stands, Kikau’s 100th NRL game was everything and more last Friday at Kogarah. Not only did Penrith grind home a 20-16 victory, but Kikau also scored two first half tries.
Kikau said playing a century of first grade games for the Panthers is one of his proudest achievements in life.
“To play 100 games for this club… this club has done a lot for me,” he said.
“They gave me an opportunity to play in the NRL. My dream was to play one game when I came over from Fiji and, to notch up 100 now, I feel really blessed and grateful for the coaches and everyone that’s helped me along the journey to be where I am today.”
Before he flies back to Fiji on Sunday, Kikau’s brother will once again be in the crowd on Saturday afternoon when the defending Premiers take on the first-placed Knights at Carrington Park, Bathurst.
“When Vili returned home in the off-season, he brought his Premiership ring with him and everyone took pictures with it. I even took it to the office with me and showed my workmates,” Jope said.
“Rugby league is becoming a big thing in Fiji now. He’s quite popular over there.”
Likewise here in Penrith, Jope, likewise.
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 a decade.