Fitting tributes to Shaq, Rodgo as Swifts upstage Brothers
AS Swifts celebrated like they'd just won a grand final, their player of the match had his own reason for being delighted.
Flying Fijian winger Ratunaisa Vatuinaruku enjoyed a near perfect performance in Swifts' stunning 52-18 A-Grade victory over Brothers at Purga.
Vatuinaruku booted eight goals from nine attempts and scored a first-half try as the Bluebirds raced to a 24-6 halftime advantage before continuing to outclass the 2019 premiers after the break.
"It was a big win for me and for my kids,'' Vatuinaruku said, typifying the fine family spirit at Swifts Rugby League Club.
The only goal attempt he missed on Sunday afternoon was his final kick from the sideline after earlier nailing equally difficult shots.
In his fourth year at Swifts, the 31-year-old Fijian speedster said he does extra work on that aspect of his football.
But as the Swifts celebrations continued in the dressing room, he was proud to be part of this year's Bluebirds combination, especially sharing it with other Fijian players.
"I love my football,'' he said.
Vatuinaruku's individual brilliance capped a fantastic team performance built on strangling defence that forced turnovers and creative breaks up the middle and out wide.
It was Brothers' first loss of the season, ensuring they will hit back hard when a few of their regular players like captain Josh Leisemann return for future games.
A week after raising concerns in his team's 42-12 win over Goodna, Swifts coach Wayne Finch was all smiles outside the team dressing room.
His team remained undefeated after also beating the Ipswich Jets 32-24 in the first round.
"I'm very happy,'' Finch said.
"They played well. There were a couple of patches where they went off the game but we defended well.
"We've been working on that.
"We controlled the game and that's what I was looking for our halves to do.''
Finch was also thrilled to see so much Swifts club spirit in and around the dressing room after a memorable victory. Supporters and kids shared in a wonderful victory chant.
"It was so good to get here and be a part of,'' Finch said.
"We're family orientated and that's what it means to us.''
For loyal clubman Finch, the victory had added significance on an afternoon two popular rugby league people were remembered.
The match was an annual memorial day for former Brothers and Swifts footballer Shaquille Eruera, who lost his life in a tragic 4WD accident on Australia Day in 2018 at Fernvale.
Both clubs also honoured Rodgers, who contributed so much for Ipswich rugby league and particularly Brothers before his recent passing.
"They were two beautiful people that we will remember,'' Finch said.
"Ian has done a fair bit around rugby league in general and he's been at Brothers all his life.''
The Swifts coach played with Shaq at the end of his career "so it (the memorial day) was very important''.
"It's all about remembrance,'' he said. "We never ever forget them.''
After the fitting tributes, Brothers must have thought they were in for a good day's footy when captain Wes Conlon found a gap and scored the first try of the match.
His conversion had Brothers 6-0 up early.
However, that was the last of the Brothers tries until the second half.
Swifts ran amok led by try doubles to Jericho Tanuvasa and Nemani Valekapa, who a week earlier ran up a hat-trick of four pointers against Goodna.
The sensational goalkicking of Vatuinaruku will continue to provide grief for opposing sides in future matches, especially if games get tight.
"He had a great game,'' Finch said.
"He's got a lot of tries in him and he can kick goals, and he's hard to tackle. He was quality.''
Finch also praised lock Derek Hempo for a strong defensive game.
"He put a lot of pressure on Brothers,'' the coach said.
While he welcomed his team celebrating with vigour, Finch said it would be back to business this week.
"We've got improvement and we all know that,'' he said.
"You just get back to training and want to improve a bit more next week.
"The atmosphere is good. It was down last week. I had a bit of words to them that I was disappointed in their attitude and that and I wanted it to change this week and they did.
"They turned up ready to play.''
The experienced coach knows Brothers will be fired up after a rare lesson.
"Brothers had a couple out too,'' he said. "They are a quality side and they're going to come back at us.''
In the Reserve Grade game at Purga, Swifts and Brothers finished the entertaining match deadlocked at 12-12.
Fans at Purga witnessed an absorbing contest with some desperation football and end-to-end breaks.
In Sunday's other A-Grade clash, Fassifern secured their first win of the season, beating Goodna 34-16.
RLI A Grade: Swifts 52 (Jericho Tanuvasa 2, Nemani Valekapa 2, Ratunaisa Vatuinaruku, Rick Mato, Aaron Nemani, Harold Mosby, Tim Kanoski tries; Ratunaisa Vatuinaruku 8 goals) def Brothers 18 (Wes Conlon, Donalex Vilitama, Eni Folau tries; Wes Conlon 3 goals) at Purga.