Leeds Rhinos have finalised their squad for the 2021 season with the capture of King Vuniyayawa.
The Fiji international has joined the Rhinos on a one-year deal and takes up their final quota spot ahead of the 2021 campaign.
The Rhinos’ year-long search for middles had seen them eventually identify Zane Tetevano, who has become their marquee player. But the departure of Ava Seumanufagai had opened up another spot in their pack, as well as a quota spot.
The 25-year-old is seen as a low-risk buy by the club. It’s thought the club have secured him on a value contract that lasts just 12 months.
Overseas recruitment has proven challenging for a number of clubs this year, with a number of clubs all looking to recruit NRL forwards, who simply are not available.
As a result, the Rhinos made a move for Vuniyayawa, who played five times for New Zealand Warriors in 2020.
If Vuniyayawa performs well, he will have proven to be a good purchase and the club could at that point extend his deal. Should he fail to shine, there is no commitment to a longer term deal and the club won’t have broken the bank to sign him, nor would they have missed out on another target given the lack of options currently available on the market. Leeds would, at that point, be able to use his quota spot again next year when more options are likely to be available.
Vuniyayawa was keen on the move to bolster his aspirations of representing Fiji in the World Cup, with regular game time required to enhance his prospects.
All in all, there’s a feeling that both parties have more to gain than to lose from making the move.
“He has been a good performer in lower grades for the Warriors and performed well when he made the breakthrough to the NRL this season,” said Leeds coach Richard Agar.
“At his age and position, we think he is a player with plenty of potential in him. He carries the ball hard, has some real sting in his defence, and has good athleticism for a big guy. On a one year deal, with a World Cup at the end of the year, and having spoken with King, we know we are getting a highly motivated player.”
Vuniyayawa has been awarded the vacant number 19 squad number for the Rhinos in 2021.
Leeds Rhinos 2021 full squad numbers: 1 Jack Walker, 2 Tom Briscoe, 3 Harry Newman, 4 Konrad Hurrell, 5 Ash Handley, 6 Rob Lui, 7 Luke Gale, 8 Mikolaj Oledzki, 9 Kruise Leeming, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Alex Mellor, 12 Rhyse Martin, 13 Zane Tetevano, 14 Brad Dwyer, 15 Liam Sutcliffe, 16 Richie Myler, 17 Cameron Smith, 18 Tom Holroyd, 19 King Vuniyayawa, 20 Bodene Thompson, 21 Alex Sutcliffe, 22 Sam Walters, 23 Callum McLelland, 24 Luke Briscoe, 25 James Donaldson, 26 Jarrod O’Connor, 27 Jack Broadbent, 28 Corey Hall, 29 Liam Tindall, 30 Levi Edwards, 31 Morgan Gannon.
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