AFTER more than six years away from the elite level, Hull KR’s Junior Vaivai is ready to make the most of his second chance.
The New Zealand-born centre is preparing for his fourth game with the club when they head to Wakefield Trinity on Sunday.
Since arriving last month, his pace, strength and line-breaking ability has seen him instantly find favour with the Robins fans, who hope he will help them climb away from the threat of the Qualifiers. However, at the age of 28, Vaivai certainly needs to make up for lost time.
He was one of the NRL’s brightest young talents and made his debut for South Sydney in 2009 – but he only made a handful of appearances before being ‘stood down’ after being convicted of assaulting his girlfriend.
Vaivai played briefly for Penrith Panthers in 2011 but then found himself in the reserve grades and last year was representing Western Suburb Red Devils in the Illawarra Rugby League.
Still, he did represent USA in the World Cup and that saw him catch the eye of Hull KR and co.
Combinations take time and I’m sure we’ll build on it and move forward. We have just got to be better as a team and improve our completion rates.Junior Vaivai
Vaivai said: “I’m loving it here.
“It’s like anything – when you’re there once and then you go away for a bit you get to ponder on the things you’ve experienced.
“You come back and bring that same mentality back when you are back in the game.
“I was fortunate enough to be a part of the World Cup and was actually coached by Mac (Leeds Rhinos’ Brian McDermott).
“It was a good experience there and to be playing Super League now is a privilege.
“I prefer the cold over the hot so I’m fitting in just fine. I’m just waiting for my family to come over and then it’ll be happy days.”
Vaivai’s left-edge partnership with hard-running Australian winger Justin Carney has already proved promising.
Both were explosive in the narrow 20-18 loss against Rhinos on Sunday and Vaivai said: “Leeds were always going to be tough as Premiers from last year.
“We knew we had to up our game. It was a tough match but we’ll learn from it and have built up for this week at Wakefield.
“I thought at one stage Justin did get through but the referee didn’t see it that way. Combinations take time and I’m sure we’ll build on it and move forward.
“We have just got to be better as a team and improve our completion rates.”