If the Melbourne Storm beat the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night they’ll become the 2016 NRL minor premiers.
While this isn’t an achievement the Storm themselves have been gunning for, its one they’ll be proud of nonetheless, and one they’ve deserved.
After injuries shook the Storm’s depth early on in the season, role players like Cheyse Blair, Kenny Bromwich and Tim Glasby have stepped up their games this season and become integral parts of this league leading side.
Two young players stand out amongst that group however, Suliasi Vunivalu and Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
The two have been fantastic for Melbourne this season for different reasons, although Asofa-Solomona’s contract runs out at the end of 2016, and Vunivalu only has a year to go on his.
With both players under a contract cloud over the next 12 month period it could be unlikely that the Storm get to keep both players.
So on the basis that only one of the two players can sign another contract in Melbourne, we’re asking fans, which one would you keep?
A case for Suliasi Vunivalu
The Fijian winger knows exactly where the try line is, and he’s not afraid to find it more than once a game.
Vunivalu opened his career with doubles against the Tigers, Warriors and Titans to become the first player to score doubles in their first three NRL games.
The 20-year-old has added three hat-tricks to his name – including his four-try first-half against Manly last weekend – and has scored in nine of his 16 games this season.
He leads the league in tries with 21, and is currently equal with Israel Folau’s rookie record set back in 2007, although it’s likely Vunivalu will break it before season’s end.
Vunivalu’s speed, agility and leap make him such a difficult player to stop, and his ability to get to the line despite contact from defenders makes him a threat each time he picks up the ball.
Despite not recording one assist all season, Vunivalu’s tally of 21 tries is a phenomenal achievement, and he’s been one of the shining lights in a team already filled with bright stars.
A case for Nelson Asofa-Solomona
It’s not often you get a 200cm, 115 kg player that can keep up with the rigors of an NRL game week in week out, and to get one with the speed and agility that Asofa-Solomona has is almost impossible.
Asofa-Solomona made his debut last season and played 12 games for the Storm, and has continued working hard this season to become a vital impact player off the bench.
The imposing Kiwi has made 13 appearances during an injury interrupted 2016 campaign, and averages an impressive 87 running metres per game in just 28 minutes of action, probably due to the opposition generally needing at least four players to bring the 20-year-old to his knees.
His ability to gain metres and impact the game positively is something the Storm cherish, and his try assist for Cooper Cronk against Penrith in Round 13 was a sight to behold.
He’s just returned from injury over the past two weeks, but if big NAS can get his body right come the September, he could one of the most influential bench players over the course of the finals series.
Who we would keep
It’s a tough decision. Both players deserve new contracts and both players will get them, but for this exercise only one will stay in Melbourne.
In a battle of tries vs size, we believe that despite Vunivalu’s freakish try-scoring ability, Asofa-Solomona’s sheer size, strength, speed and agility makes him an invaluable player for years to come.
We choose Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who would you choose?