Powerful winger Sami Sauiluma found it hard to cement a regular spot in the Raiders NRL line-up this year but when he did get the chance in the top grade he proved that he is a more than capable first grader.
Despite graduating through to the NRL last season and compiling an impressive three tries in seven appearances in his debut year, Sauiluma remained stuck behind the likes of Edrick Lee, Reece Robinson and Bill Tupou in the pecking order in 2014.
As such, Sauiluma spent the first four weeks of the season with Mounties in the VB NSW Cup before an opportunity arose in the NRL in Round 5 against the Penrith Panthers following what was thought to be a season ending injury to Lee and an unhappy game by Tupou against the Rabbitohs.
Although he featured in the top five for metres gained, the developing winger was targeted by the passing and kicking game of Jamie Soward and found himself back in the VB NSW Cup the following week.
Rather than drop his head and let the disappointment infiltrate his attitude, Sauiluma went back down to reserve grade and emerged as one of the side’s consistently best players.
Following the heavy loss to the Warriors in Round 9, Sauiluma was again recalled to the first grade side at the expense of Tupou.
Sauiluma delivered a vastly improved performance this time around against the Panthers; running for 108 metres and registering one line break and seven tackle breaks.
The Woden Rams junior kept his place in the side for the next three games, topping the metres gained category on each occasion.
Unfortunately Sauiluma sustained an eye injury in the Round 13 clash against the Broncos which forced him to miss the next handful of matches. In this time Brenko Lee made his debut and Matt Allwood was also shifted to the wing at times.
After recovering from his eye injury, Sauiluma returned to the Raiders NRL line-up in Round 18. In the two ensuing games against the Storm and the Rabbitohs, Sauiluma portrayed his tremendous try scoring ability with a fine finish in each match.
Given the loss to the Rabbitohs though, Stuart chose to go with young Brenko Lee rather than Sauiluma on the wing. The 23 year old would see out the remainder of the year in the VB NSW Cup with Mounties.
Sauiluma proved to be a class above in the VB NSW Cup, cutting opposition defensive structures to swathes on a week-to-week basis.
Sauiluma was pivotal in leading Mounties into the semi-finals and his 20 tries in just 15 games saw him crowned as the competition’s leading try scorer for 2014.
As a result of his outstanding form for Mounties all year, Sauiluma was named in the centres in NSWRL.com.au’s Team of the Year, alongside team mate Jake Foster.
Despite only appearing in eight NRL matches this year, Sauiluma registered the second most dummy half runs behind Glen Buttriss and averaged the second most metres per game for the year of any player.
With the Raiders signing Sisa Waqa and Jeremy Hawkins, Edrick Lee, Brenko Lee, Jordan Rapana and Bill Tupou all on the books for 2015, Sauiluma chose to leave the club and sign with the Cronulla Sharks for next season.
On behalf of the Raiders, we would like to wish Sauiluma all the very best in the future and thank him for his contribution to the Green Machine since his days as a 15 year old running around in the Harold Matthews Cup.
Average Minutes: 80
Try Assists: 0
Try Saves: 0
Line Breaks: 2
Line Break Assists: 2
Tackle Breaks: 21
Average Metres: 131
Average Tackles: 6.1
Kick Metres: 1 kick for 11 metres