“I struggled mentally – I was never that type”: Suli blames Rennie’s demands for not being able to start as a wallaby

Suliasi Vunivalu has revealed how Dave Rennie’s training demands nearly drove him out of rugby as he prepares to meet the expectations of new Wallabies manager Eddie Jones.

The Queensland Reds winger will play his first game of the Super Rugby Pacific season against Western Force in Melbourne on Sunday.

It will be just his 15th cap since the two-time NRL champions left the Melbourne Storm after the 2020 season. An ankle problem kept Vunivalu out of last week’s first-round loss to the Hurricanes.

This comes after constant hamstring injuries ruled him out of more than half of the Reds’ games over the past two years.

Finally fit again last year, he spent the entire home Test season at the Wallabies camp but only played three minutes in his only appearance.

Former Australia coach Rennie had demanded Vunivalu go ‘balls out’ in training to show he was ready.

Suliasi Vunivalu training wallabies

Suliasi Vunivalu. (Image: Delivered/Rugby Australia/Andrew Phan)

But Vunivalu was eventually dropped for the Wallabies’ European tour and then not included in a 44-man squad assembled in the week before Rennie was replaced in January.

Vunivalu, who signed a one-year deal that kept him on Rugby Australia’s books until after September’s World Cup, explained how this obsession with pace had startled him.

“Every interview[with Rennie]was just based on speed, speed, speed,” he told AAP on Friday.

“It put pressure on me; I started getting my technique wrong and I kept pulling on my hamstring.

“I struggled mentally dealing with serious back-to-back injuries for the first time, I didn’t have the confidence to come back and run at full speed.

“I was never that guy, I never hit top speed until game day… I was too focused on trying to get my speed back, I forgot the footy.

“Now that’s behind me…I just want the footy in my hands again.”

Vunivalu was a rugby-playing kid in Fiji and continued with his first love after moving to New Zealand before the storm hit.

The 27-year-old was honest when asked if he’d lost the sport since joining Ballymore.

“I felt that way at (wallabies) camp. All I could see was that I was going to be holding pads (and not playing) again next week and I know some of the other Reds guys felt the same way,” he said.

“We thought that if we weren’t playing we’d rather come back and play club football.

“I was pushed down the line; it gave me headaches and I started thinking “should I be here?”.

Vunivalu enjoyed the Reds’ off-season tour of Japan and is aware of the praise from Jones, the manager telling AAP last week the winger “got it” and could be shortlisted under his watch.

Jones also acknowledged Vunivalu’s concerns about overtraining during the week, saying each player’s preparation should be different.

“It’s good to hear that he says that and thinks the same way,” Vunivalu said.

“He has a history, likes his league players. But I’m not going to hold on and think it’ll be spoon-fed to me,” Vunivalu said of Jones, who had NRL trio Mat Rogers, Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri in his 2003 World Cup roster.

“I have to work for him to choose me.”


https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/03/03/i-struggled-mentally-ive-never-been-that-guy-suli-blames-rennies-demands-for-failure-to-launch-as-a-wallaby/ “I struggled mentally – I was never that type”: Suli blames Rennie's demands for not being able to start as a wallaby


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