Castleford Tigers have signed Fijian soldier Junior Vasuitoga on a trial period for the 2022 pre-season.
A serving Private Soldier in 9 Regiment RLC, based in Hullavington near Chippenham, Vasuitoga is a member of the 84 Medical Supply Squadron and has featured for the British Army’s Senior XV and Sevens squads.
The 26-year-old was born in Fiji and he joined the British Army in 2016, taking advantage of the opportunity to play rugby in the armed forces.
“I started playing for the Army during my second phase of training, playing for the Under 23s, and then I jumped into sevens,” he said.
“In 2018 I moved into the senior squad, so pretty much all of my time in the Army I’ve played rugby too.”
As a back in the 15-man code, Vasuitoga played in the centre, wing, or fullback but was keen to test himself professionally.
“During 2020 I went to the Falklands for six months as a supplier. When I came back, I returned to sevens to play. Then there was an opportunity, if I wanted to grab it, with Rugby League after my footage was seen by Lee (Radford).
“I said, ‘If its Rugby League or Rugby Union, it doesn’t matter. If it had that oval shape, I’d be happy with it!’
“I am still trying to sink in the emotion that I am here. When I’ve got onto the pitch with the lads I was like ‘So this is how the professionals train’; it is another level.
“The lads have been very helpful; there is a lot to take in, but they are really helpful with everything. The coaching staff too; any coaching drills I didn’t get right, they’ve taught me how to do it.
“The pace of league and the pace of sevens is quite similar, it’s rapid, fast. I think I can get used to that.
“It is my sort of mission; when I got told I could come here I didn’t think of second chances, I want to go and get it. When I started knowing I would be on trial I began to prepare myself for these three months. I’ll be doing my best and hopefully I will earn a contract at the end.
Tigers coach Lee Radford recruited Ratu Naulago for Hull FC from Rugby Union sevens, with the Fijian scoring 20 tries in 30 appearances for Hull in 2019 and 2020 before joining Bristol RUFC. Radford hopes that Vasuitoga will enjoy the same degree of success with the Tigers.
“The kid is an athlete, he has got a striker’s instinct, he knows where the ball is going to be at,” said Radford.
“Like so many Fijians he looks like he’s built for rugby, but he’s very green.
“To get him in during pre-season is a fantastic opportunity for him and for us to have a really good look at him and he’ll feature in our friendlies before we make a decision from there.
“Coming from a military background, he carries himself very well. Already with some of the physical stuff we are doing he is right at the front of that, as you’d expect. He’s well-mannered and it looks like the kid can play.”