Battle of the NRL’s new beasts
VILIAME Kikau was supposed to be a North Queensland wrecking ball.
Instead, he must now stop one.
Only three years after a Cowboys recruiter first plucked him from the tiny Fijian island of Bau, Kikau will return north for the greatest battle outside Alien vs. Predator - a showdown with Cowboys monster Cohen Hess.
Despite boasting only a dozen NRL games with Penrith, the 22-year-old edge forward is considered a perfect foil for the rising Queensland Origin star who is scoring tries as quickly as any forward in rugby league history.
Combined, these NRL young guns weigh 230kg.
Better, they know each other.
"During my time with North Queensland Under 20s, I remember hearing the name Hess a lot," Kikau recalled this week.
"He was a year younger than me. Killing it in the high school competition.
"So his name kept coming up. People saying over and over how he was going to come play for us."
And as for now taking him on?
"Ah," Kikau shrugged, "I'm not even sure which side of the field he plays".
Told it was the Cowboys right edge, he continued: "Well, if that's the case, yeah, we will.
"And Hess, he's definitely a beast.
"Trains like a beast, lifts weights like a beast, plays like a beast."
Ironically, Kikau was himself first discovered by North Queensland talent scout Adrian Thomson.
Joining the Cowboys in 2014, the young tearaway was only midway through his second season of NYC when Penrith GM Phil Gould pounced, stealing the backrower until the end of 2019.
Unknown before the start of this season, Kikau has proved outstanding over the opening three rounds against Parramatta, South Sydney and Canterbury.
A rise he credits, in part, to removing all traditional Fijian dishes from his diet.
"Which has been hard," Kikau admitted. "I love kari, and my mum cooks the best dish.
"Then there's all the other meals using chicken, pork, beef ... but my nutritionist says it's all fat, no good.
"I'm sure I wouldn't be in the NRL if I kept eating it."
But as for putting a similar ban on that famed island elixir, kava?
"No, drink I it after every game," Kikau said. "And that isn't going to change.
"I've even asked a few of the boys if they're keen. I've put the invites out to come around to my house but they never turn up."
Elsewhere, Kikau also credits his rise to playing with Fiji during last year's Rugby League World Cup, where his responsibilities included leading the traditional pre-match hymn.
"And that's what made us stand out, our belief,'' he said.
"I remember for the 2008 World Cup, I was in Year 8.
"And that first night Fiji played, I walked around for ages with some friends looking for any house who had the channel to watch it. There was six of us making this long walk to all these houses in the dark, knocking on doors to see who had it on TV.
"So to get out there myself, be wearing the Fijian jersey as our anthem played. It was the best feeling ever."