Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhinos - King Vuniyayawa keen to build on strong Super League debut as vistors battle to end losing run
Fijian forward King Vuniyayawa was one of the few Leeds Rhinos players to come away from Hull KR last week with head held high - in contrast to his debut three weeks earlier.
Now he is looking to build on an encouraging first real hit out for Rhinos, when they visit Huddersfield Giants on Sunday.
Vuniyayawa lasted just three minutes of his Rhinos debut, at St Helens, before being knocked out.
That ruled him out of the following game against Wigan Warriors, but he was recalled to face Hull KR and made a positive impact in the 26-6 defeat
“It was good for myself,” he reflected. “My debut wasn’t really what I was looking for or expecting, I had three minutes and I was quite disappointed, but I knew I had to get my head down and work even harder to put in a good performance.
“I was really nice getting some minutes in and getting back out there and playing with the boys, showing what I can bring to the team on the field.
“It was disappointing for the team, it wasn’t an ideal performance; for myself I was just happy to get some minutes, but still really, really disappointed with the result.”
Vuniyayawa confirmed there have been no lingering symptoms from his concussion, caused in a collision with Saints’ Agnatius Paasi.
He was given oxygen on the field, but said: “I was okay, I wanted to do an HIA [head injury assessment] because I was really keen to get back out there, but they said I couldn’t.
“They judge you by the grading of the head injury and I was in the worst one so they said ‘you’re not getting back out there, there’s no point doing an HIA’.
“I was pretty disappointed for the whole week, I felt I let everyone down, but it is what it is.
“There’s some things you can’t control, I guess, but what you can control is how you learn from it and how you are going to do better at your next job.
“It was disappointing, but I am glad to be back out on the field.”
Coach Richard Agar identified Vuniyayawa as Leeds’ best player against Rovers and the former New Zealand Warriors man admitted that was a boost to his confidence.
“At the start of the season I wasn’t playing, but I kept my head down,” he said.
“I knew once I get my chance I have to prove to them I want to be in the 17 every week.
“I don’t care if it’s on the bench or starting, but I want to be out there with the boys.
“I just want to play some footy because that’s what we all love doing, but that was nice of Rich and I hope I can keep doing what I am doing and hopefully the coaches will keep selecting me every week.”
Vuniyayawa will have another opportunity to show what he can when Leeds visit John Smith’s Stadium this weekend.
He said: “I always look forward to playing again and keeping that consistency with performance.
“Hopefully we can turn the tables this time and go after Huddersfield and do what we do best, play the set-for-set game.
“Last week was a bit frantic and we didn’t really complete many sets, but I am looking to just back up what I did and hopefully look to improve and give a bit more.
“Every weekend I am always trying to work on what I have done wrong and what I can do better.”
At least 10 of Rhinos’ senior squad are unavailable for Sunday's match, but Vuniyayawa insisted he is “still confident” they can end a four-game losing run.
“We have got a few people out, key players, but I am still confident in the team we put on the field,” he pledged.
“I think we can do a good job. In terms of pre-season people had to fight for their spots and along the way people got injured, so it was easy to pick the team, but it would be hard if everyone was available.
“Everyone has been on point with their performance and training, we have got the likes of Jack Broadbent who has been playing well and the likes of Konny [Konrad Hurrell] and Ash [Handley] coming back.
“I fully think everyone can do a job, it is a bit harder when you have no halves, but when they come back you have got to think we are going to kick on.
“At full strength we will do a job and I think we will be a force to be reckoned with.
“I am looking forward to that moment, when we are 100 per cent and at full strength.”
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