Hull FC have signed British Army serviceman Mitieli Vulikijapani to a first-team contract following a successful trial period throughout the club’s 2021 pre-season.
The Fijian-born outside back, who plays at wing or centre, has impressed throughout pre-season and has been given a one-year deal, with the option for the club to extend further, while he has been granted a release from active service to pursue his Rugby League opportunity.
The rugby union convert, usually known as Mitch, has also represented Harlequins and Saracens, winning the Premiership 7s title with the latter in 2018.
He has also played for the British Army squads in both 7s and 15-a-side rugby, whilst also representing national league side Marlborough, and he has toured the world to play in international 7s events.
Vulikijapani first caught the eye of the club’s management whilst representing the Army, with whom he serves as a Gunner in the 47 Regiment Royal Artillery (and part of the 10 ‘Assaye’ Battery), who operate Tactical Uncrewed Ariel Systems UAV drones.
He has spent the last three months training with Hull and featured in the pre-season win over York City Knights.
Having been granted permission to take temporary leave from the military to sign for Hull, he goes straight in the 21-man squad this weekend.
Speaking to hullfc.com, Vulikijapani said: “Firstly I want to thank everyone at the club for being so welcoming, as well as my family for supporting me on my journey.
“The players have been extremely welcoming, especially the Pacific Island players – I can’t thank them enough.
“I’ve seen them play on television before, but meeting them in person, you realise how humble they are. They’ve taught me a lot already, particularly Carlos, Mahe and Bureta.”
Explaining how he was picked up for trial, he added: “I first got a call when I was playing Rugby Union 7s for Harlequins last year and the club has been watching my Army games.
“I watched a lot of Rugby League when I was young but I didn’t get the chance to play – however, having played plenty of Rugby Union 7s in my career, the two are quite similar in terms of the speed and physical one-on-one battles.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge of testing myself in Rugby League and putting my skills to use in this sport.”
“I am extremely grateful to the club for giving me this opportunity and I will work hard to make the most of this chance and work hard to earn a place in the first-team.”
Hull FC head coach Brett Hodgson added: “Mitch has a lot of potential and we’re excited to continue to develop that.
“Coming from the other code, we have had to teach him some new systems and make sure that he showed the traits and characteristics we were looking for, and he has done that; he’s strong defensively and I’m confident that he’s going to play his part this season.
“He’s a very likable character, always smiling, and always asking questions and willing to learn, and he has a strong work ethic too – he has moved away from his family, which is a big commitment, but thankfully it has paid off.
Hodgson continued:”The club have had good connections with English Rugby Union for a while, particularly with the British Army, so having taken a good look at him, we had the conversations needed to get him to come up to Hull to trial with us, and he’s gone very well.
“Adding depth is always important. It can only take one game for a few injuries to happen and you need to call players up into the squad. We wanted to strengthen our depth in the outside backs, and he is the answer to that.”
Vulikijapani will wear the number 27 jersey during the 2021 Betfred Super League campaign.
The club has thanked the British Army for their ongoing support and cooperation in helping facilitate the move for Gnr Vulikijapani and the Army will continue to support him during his time with Hull FC.