Maika Sivo would’ve given Mounties defenders nightmares with his brutal carries in Round 13 NSW Cup action at Kellyville last Friday night.
The superstar Fijian winger scored a hat-trick of tries and ran for 253m in his side’s 38-0 win, in doing so making a definitive statement that he’s ready to go again at NRL level.
As a result, he’s been named on the wing for Parramatta against the Bulldogs for the Round 14 NRL clash at Accor Stadium on Monday.
Sivo told BettingSite.com.au that his knee felt good after the game. It was his third start at NSW Cup level since suffering an ACL injury last season.
He scored six tries in those three outings, also helping the Eels to wins over Blacktown Workers and Canberra, linking up well with spine players Mitch Rein, Jake Arthur and Jack Williams.
It is little wonder, then, that he will be welcomed back with open arms because he is a genuine excitement machine with 54 tries from 67 games at first-grade level.
But there is one thing his former peers at Gundagai Tigers would like to see happen.
“They don’t use enough of it in the NRL – his aerial ability is incredible,” Tigers secretary Martin Hay told BettingSite.com.au, his team currently undefeated in this year’s Group 9 competition with five wins from five games.
“He used to score tries from our halfback chipping to the corners. He’d fly through the air like Superman, honestly.
“It’s always been a bugbear of us back home – they don’t use it (the high ball) enough towards him.
“He’s amazing in the air. But he was just so fast, and big and strong.
“He was the top try-scorer in Group 9, and we actually won the first-grade competition that year (2015).
“That was the first time since 1983 we had won the comp.”
Sivo had an everlasting impact on the small New South Wales country town seven years ago, helping break its Group 9 premiership drought, as well as positively impacting the lives of many away from the football field.
What is remarkable is that it was his first time playing the 13-man football code, after growing up in the small village of Momi, three hours outside Fiji’s capital of Nadi.
“That was Maika’s first year playing rugby league,” Hay said.
“He’d only ever played rugby union before. They played union back home, and he’d never played football before in boots.
“He only played barefoot over there. His athleticism was phenomenal – it was freakish and we’d never seen anything like it.
“He came out with three other friends from Fiji.
“One was an under-16 boy and the other two played mainly reserve grade.”
Just by chance, a Gundagai couple happened to spot Sivo playing local rugby union in Fiji, and straight away they knew they had to bring him back to NSW.
The rest is history.
“We were lucky that Don and Kathy Tuckwell found him over there while they were on holidays, and they became friends with them,” Hay said.
“They brought them out. They sponsored them to come to Gundagai. They were all a pleasure to have.
“They did a little bit of work here and there. They weren’t allowed to work for income, so we bought them food to help them out.
“The whole town was a buzz when they were there. We helped them out with their rent.
“We’ve had nothing of that calibre (of players since Sivo was in town). They don’t come along that often.”
Sivo believes he can cement his spot back on Parramatta’s wing after Monday’s clash against the Bulldogs, and he is also aiming to represent Fiji in the Rugby League World Cup in England during October and November.
The 28-year-old has also been thrilled to see the growth of the 13-man football code back in his home country, as well as the continued improvement of the Kaiviti Silktails in the Ron Massey Cup.
Not long before he laid eyes on Sivo, Hay says he was also blessed with good fortune.
That was when multiple Canberra premiership-winning horse trainer Nick Olive rang him about a star sprinter in the making, Single Gaze.
The now nine-year-old mare went on to win over $2.3 million in prizemoney, a highlight being her Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes victory at Rosehill in 2016.
“That was also a stroke of luck. Nick Owen did a great job training her, and Billy Owen was strapping her,” Hay said.
“Now Billy is making a good fist of his career as a jockey.
“Nick just rang me up one day because we’re mates, and he said ‘I’ve bought her up at the Gold Coast Magic Millions Sales’.
“And I said ‘maybe me and my mate will take a half-share in her’. So we went in 25 per cent each.
“She’s still in Japan (as a broodmare). To my knowledge she’s had two foals. I don’t think they’ve raced yet.
“Katsumi Yoshida purchased her. It’s some set-up he has over there.”
Like Sivo, Single Gaze did not need too much maintenance.
“Nick didn’t train her any differently to the way he trains all his other horses,” Hay said.
“She wasn’t too much different to a good footballer – the good ones stand out with the same training.”