June 23, 2022
Fiji Bati second row forward Viliame Kikau credits Penrith Panthers Coach Ivan Cleary for turning him into a better leader on and off the field.
Kikau has been given the vice captain's role for Fiji Bati this weekend for their Pacific Test clash against Papua New Guinea in Sydney.
Speaking to the Weekender, Kikau said getting the opportunity to lead will be one of the biggest honors of his career.
"That's one of the things I've been trying to learn the last couple of years, is taking a leadership role around here."
"I had a tap on the shoulder from Ivan and he always tells me, 'you've got to be a leader now, you’ve got to lead the team, you've got to talk more', so that's what I've been doing.
"I’ll never say 'no' to playing for my country and if I get that honour of vice-captain, that would be massive for me and my family and everyone back home."
The 27-year-old powerhouse said he is eager to play along with his old and new mates this weekend for the first time since the 9s Rugby League in 2019.
"Some old faces will be there and there will definitely be heaps of new faces too – it's always a good camp to be in."
"I like it because some of the boys who weren't born in Fiji get to learn heaps about the culture and the boys that come from Fiji, like myself, are always happy to share stories about home. I’m really looking forward to it."
After making his debut with the Panthers in 2017, Kikau has been consistently playing 80 minutes per game and has already scored six tries in 15 matches this year.
"I wasn't always going to play 80 at the start of my NRL career, that's for sure, but I've learned and experienced a lot and I’m playing whole games now," Kikau admitted.
The 2023 Bulldogs-bound said his one and only focus is to get Penrith to the mountaintop again and win another Premiership.
"I think for us the biggest challenge is going from great to great again, which was one of the themes back in pre-season," he said.
"It's so hard when you've reached the highest point and then you have to go back down and start again. Pre-season built us really well for this. Experience comes with it as well.
"Losing in 2020 and then 2021 we had to go down again to get back up. Same case this year. So, the boys know what it takes to be up there, and that mindset drives us every single day," he added.
By Romeka Romena