Sua’s star continues to rise with young fullback superb as Storm clip Warriors’ wings by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 19 min read

The rise and rise of Sua Faalogo continued on Saturday in Auckland with the rookie Storm fullback starring in attack and defence in their comeback win over the Warriors.

Melbourne looked like they could be heading for just their fourth loss of the season after the Warriors shot out to a 14-0 lead but they worked their way into the lead by half-time before registering a 38-24 triumph on the back of Faalogo’s five-star performance.

The 21-year-old scored two superb tries and showed defensive steel beyond his years when he halted a rampaging Marata Niukore on the try line. 

With regular fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen missing a large chunk of the season due to another leg injury, Faalogo is a leading contender to be rookie of the year. 

The Warriors were down to 11 players at one stage in the second half when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak followed fellow winger Marcelo Montoya to the sin bin.

Rising star creates selection headache

Most NRL clubs would love to have a fullback as good as Faalogo. The Storm have two with Papenhuyzen a Clive Churchill Medallist and one of the most dynamic attacking weapons in the NRL when he’s on the field.

He is due back from his fractured ankle in the next few weeks and coach Craig Bellamy will have a selection headache on his hands when it comes time to figure out who gets the No.1 jersey.

Papenhuyzen is higher on the pecking order and Faalogo is only seven matches into his NRL career but his future could not look brighter.

The young speedster has re-signed with the Storm until the end of 2028 so they clearly see him as a foundational piece of their future while Papenhuyzen is contracted for one more season after this one.

Papenhuyzen has stated that he is keen to remain at the Storm for the rest of his career but two fullbacks don’t go into one No.1 jersey.

A hot start but Warriors go ice cold

The sellout crowd at Go Media Stadium was in raptures early when centre Adam Pompey crossed for the first try before adding a penalty goal for an 8-0 lead in as many minutes.

They were up by 14 midway through the first half when Montoya benefitted from a brilliant Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad flick pass to dive over in the corner.

Former Warriors forward Eliesa Katoa returned to haunt his old club when his try turned the momentum a short time later and Storm winger Grant Anderson then touched down after the home side failed to defused a bomb. 

The scores were tied at 14-14 by the half-hour mark when Dean Ieremia capitalised on a poor defensive read by Montoya and Melbourne took a six-point lead to the break when Katoa made a break downfield and found Nick Meaney backing up in support.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 15: Sualauvi Faalogo of the Storm is tackled during the round 15 NRL match between New Zealand Warriors and Melbourne Storm at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart, on June 15, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
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Sua Faalogo. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Mitch Barnett barged over soon after half-time to give the Warriors hope but when Jahrome Hughes took a quick tap and ran straight at Montoya, he couldn’t resist making a tackle despite being well offside and was banished to the bin.

Faalogo cashed in on the next set when he sprinted through the stretched cover defence. 

He also demonstrated his willingness to put his body on the line when he managed to hold Niukore up over the line to deny the much bigger forward.

The try was disallowed due to an obstruction in the lead-up but the young fullback’s effort was nonetheless impressive.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was next to go when he coathangered Anderson off the ball and the Storm exploited the extra space on the flank with Xavier Coates making it 32-18 before Montoya pegged the final deficit back to eight before Faalogo had the last laugh when he evaded four defenders with a sizzling solo try.

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Mid-season momentum halted

The Warriors looked to be getting on a roll after winning three straight and when they romped out to a 14-point early lead, a fourth victory seemed a fait accompli.

But they played plenty of dumb football after their hot start with Montoya’s professional foul and DWZ’s reflex shot on Anderson summing up their night.

They could be without centre Rocco Berry after he appeared to suffer a recurrence of a wrist injury in the first half and played no further part in the match.

Strangely, coach Andrew Webster listed Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as the 18th player in his comeback from a hamstring injury so he will be able to slot into the centres next Saturday against the Gold Coast.

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