'Everyone's saying I'll love the fans, they are like crazy' - Leeds Rhinos recruit King Vuniyayawa can't wait for crowds' return to Super League

The "crazy" atmosphere at a full Emerald Headingley is high on the list of things Leeds Rhinos’ overseas recruit King Vuniyayawa can’t wait to experience.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 5:47 am

The Fijian international forward, who arrived in England on February 1, says he has been impressed by the entire club, from the playing squad and coaching staff to training facilities and stadium.

Vuniyayawa is in contention to make his competitive debut behind closed doors against Wakefield Trinity at Headingley on March 27, but will have to wait until at least May to play in front of a crowd.

Revealing his first impressions of his new club, Vuniyayawa said: “It is brilliant facilities, with the gym and the 3g surface for us to train on.

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King Vuniyayawa at training. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos.

“I am pretty impressed and the stadium - wow. It is quite neat, I have never seen anything like that.

“Looking at the stadium, I can’t wait to see what it is like when the crowds are back.

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“Richard [Agar, Rhinos’ coach] was telling me about Friday nights, with all the singing and the music going on.

King Vuniyayawa. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos.

“Everyone has been saying I will love the fans, they are like crazy, singing all their songs.

“I am really looking forward to it."

Vuniyayawa completed five days in quarantine at the Headingley Lodge hotel before linking with his new teammates

“I am in my third week of training now and I am really loving it, really enjoying it here,” he insisted.

“The club and the boys are really welcoming. It is a young squad, but the boys have made it easy for me, they are helping me out through training and the coaches as well are helping me and making it easy for me. It has been great.”

Vuniyayawa will turn 26 on March 13, but is still a novice at the top level, having played most of his rugby in second tier competitions before five NRL appearances with New Zealand Warriors last year.

“I always think I am a young guy myself - though I’m not really any more,” he added.

“But the guys are young and they are very good. I like a club that gives young guys a chance to prove themselves, I support that and I really like what I am looking at.

“I will be there to help them throughout the year, with whatever they need.”

Vuniyayawa is also relishing learning off the more experienced members of Rhinos’ squad, including back-rower James Donaldson.

“There’s some real quality experience here,” he said. “I am in the midst of it, trying to learn.

“I have learned a lot and I am trying to learn as I go.

“The guys here are really on point and they have helped me a lot.

“James Donaldson has a lot of experience and I can tell he is a guy who has been through all of it.

“To have that experience is good, it all balances out with the young guys.

“They have all helped me out, when you see how they look after themselves and how hard they train.

“They are all trying to better themselves and they are always out there helping each other.”

Even the weather has been kind to the new arrival, who watched videos of Rhinos training in the snow before flying to England.

“My first day at training was 12 degrees and all the lads were saying ‘you’ve brought the sunshine with you’,” he said.

“I was lucky enough to catch a bit of warmth, but [last Monday] was a bit foggy and chilly, one of the coldest training days I have done.

“But it’s nothing like what the lads went through when they were training in the snow.

“I was watching the videos and I was like, ‘Holy...’

“I did manage to catch some snow - I was quite keen to do that when I was in isolation, but when training came I was kind of scared it would be freezing, but it was 12 degrees so I was really happy - I am grateful for that.”

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