Fiji Bati fullback and Penrith Panthers winger Sunia Turuva has begun defusing cross-field kicks ahead of the showdown against Will Warbrick and the Melbourne Storm in Friday night’s semifinal.
Warbrick was a sensation for the Storm helping them advance to the grand final qualifier. While being tagged as one of the best finishers, the underdogs will likely use him in the air again against pint-sized Turuva.
“It was a pretty good try [by Warbrick] but that’s us every week trying to stay on top of things and making sure we don’t fall away from basic fundamentals,” Turuva told NRL.
With over 10 centimetres of height difference, Turuva said it was pure coincidence and a regular weekly measure is that he spends time on shutting down kicks at the end of training sessions.
“There’s nothing extra doing this week on that. ‘Bizza’ (Brian To’o) and I are pretty short guys so we’re usually giving up height to whoever we come up against.”
“It doesn’t look too good when me and him are walking around with Critta (Stephen Crichton) at the shops when he’s over seven feet tall and we can’t even reach six feet. It’s embarrassing.”
Also in the set-up was Stephen Crichton helping Turuva in defence and Zac Hosking, who was putting pressure on him.
“But we pride ourselves on that out there on the field especially when other guys are taller than us. You just have to keep your eyes on the ball and try to get up as high as possible and catch it.”
“You can’t afford to let the guy have an easy run to the ball either. That’s where the trouble starts if the guy is able to get a free catch.”
“Everyone helps each other here. The play isn’t over until we get the ball back and we are playing the ball.”
Turuva said he was blown away by the intensity of finals football after experiencing his first match against the New Zealand Warriors at BlueBet Stadium two weeks ago.
A Dally M rookie of the year contender, Turuva has only missed one match in 2023 – a forced rest by coach Ivan Cleary – and is now chasing rugby league’s ultimate prize alongside many of his teammates who have already experienced the feeling.
“When it came to making a decision on whether I would sign here for longer or not I just had a real big think about what the club has done for me and moments like that,” Turuva said, reflecting on the support following his mother Salote’s passing.
“It was frustrating because I didn’t know what to do because I hadn’t played first grade yet but once I sat down with a few people I ended up making the decision.”
“I’m glad I didn’t go anywhere else. This is home for me.”
The Panthers will meet the Storm on Friday at 9.50pm at Accor Stadium in Sydney.