Fijian winger Marika Koroibete had no inkling Melbourne Storm had its eyes on him when he started the season in the Wests Tigers reserve grade side.
The 22-year-old was out of favour with the Tigers after injuries ruined his 2013 season but he was desperate to force his way back into the first-grade team.
He was leading the NSW Cup competition in tries when, at the end of June, his manager told him Melbourne had made an offer.
Storm had injury and form problems on their “edges”, with several wingers and centres struggling to stay on the field.
So Koroibete called home to Fiji and spoke with his parents, then also sought the opinion of his partner.
Two weeks later he took up a two-year deal with Storm, which included his immediate transfer to Melbourne – something different to many other NRL transactions which are agreed in winter but don’t see the player move until the end of the season.
“It was a good opportunity for me to come and have a crack at Melbourne’s team,” Koroibete said. “It’s a good club for me to come and learn and expose my talent.”
Koroibete had strong ties at the Tigers after moving to the club from Fiji four years ago, but his teammates understood he needed a new start – even when he scored two tries against them for Storm earlier this month.
“It was a bit emotional cleaning out the stuff from my locker and having everyone wishing me the best,” he said. “But at the end of the day they all understood this was business and the best chance for me.”
After taking a few weeks to find his feet and boost his fitness, Koroibete was handed his Storm debut on July 12 and quickly looked at home on the wing.
He said the Storm players have been "lovely" to him, which has eased his passage into the group.
Koroibete has scored four tries in five matches and formed astrong partnership with Storm’s Victorian-born centre Mahe Fonua, who was out of favour in the middle of the season but has hit top form since being put next to Koroibete.
“It was hard in our first game, but he has been helping me a lot,” Koroibete said. “He is my age so we are similar and maybe that makes it easier for us to communicate. Mahe is strong and a very good creator, he gives me a lot of good balls.”
Koroibete will be looking to keep up his good form when Melbourne faces Cronulla at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Storm's leading try-scorer and fellow Fijian winger Sisa Waqa has also been a key supporter of Koroibete, helping him pick up the signals within the Storm’s game plan.
But Waqa will leave Melbourne for Canberra at the end of the season, meaning players like Koroibete will have to score even more tries next season.
“He has been helping me fit into the culture of the team and shown me how to become a good player,” Koroibete said.
While Koroibete believes he still has much to learn about Storm’s offensive and defensive sequences, many at the club were surprised how strong his tackling and defensive play has been considering his reputation was built around being a speedy try scorer.
Koroibete said he wanted to lock himself into Storm’s senior side and knows he only has two years [2015 and 2016] to prove to the club he has a long-term future.
“You know time flies, so I just want to play my best,” Koroibete said. “I want to come back to pre-season big and strong and have a good crack so next year I can build up my performance.”