Luckless New Zealand Warriors winger/fullback Glen Fisiiahi has made a surprise switch to rugby union, announcing he has signed a contract to join Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs and ITM Cup outfit Counties Manukau Steelers.
One of the fastest and most exciting ball-runners in the NRL, ‘The Flying Fish’ has endured a wretched run with injury since making his first grade debut in 2011. He has played just 25 top-flight games for the Warriors, crossing for the 15 tries as he frequently tantalised the club’s long-suffering fans with his expert finishing ability before continually breaking down.
The Ellerslie Eagles junior stamped himself as one of the code’s most promising prospects as a star of the Warriors’ maiden NYC premiership triumph in 2010. An embarrassing gaffe that season saw him become the unfortunate subject of arguably the most replayed incident in the Under-20s competition’s history, however, infamously bombing a try after a trademark 80-metre runaway effort.
Fisiiahi enjoyed his best season in 2013, making a career-high 11 first grade appearances as he starred in the Warriors’ mid-season surge, but a torn pectoral rubbed him out of the last seven rounds. He flashed over for seven tries in the opening five rounds of 2014, including a four-try haul against Wests Tigers – but his season was over just a week later courtesy of a shoulder complaint.
Hampered by minor injuries throughout 2015, the Tonga Test representative has made just one NRL appearance this year, a forgettable outing against Manly in Round 20. The emergence of young guns Tuimoala Lolohea, David Fusitua, Solomone Kata and Ken Maumalo, along with the arrival of journeyman three-quarter Jonathan Wright, has also put the squeeze on the 24-year-old.
Fisiiahi is the second young outside-back from the club to defect to the 15-a-side game this year, after nuggetty 22-year-old Ngani Laumape – currently recovering from a knee reconstruction – was snapped up by the Hurricanes and Manawatu Turbos.
The departure of Hosea Gear (France), Tim Nanai-Williams (Japan), Bryce Heem and Tom Marshall (both England) prompted the Chiefs to look outside the box for wing talent. Fisiiahi and James Lowe shape as the Chiefs’ likely 2016 wing pairing at this stage, while Fisiiahi could be a contender for the fullback role. He will play alongside fellow rugby league convert Sonny Bill Williams for the Hamilton-based franchise.
Fisiiahi played schoolboy rugby union at Auckland’s Wesley College alongside the likes of All Blacks Augustine Pulu and Charles Piatau.
— Glen Fisiiahi? (@GlenFisiiahi) August 17, 2015
First published at AU Tribune