Blacks win race for ex-Crusader

Rugby union

THE Griffith Blacks have returned from the Albury 10s tournament with the prized signature of former international rugby star Marika Vunibaka.

The 39-year-old told close friend and coach Seru Rogo that he will choose the Blacks over an enticing offer from Group 20 rugby league outfit Griffith Black and Whites this season.

The Fijian has a wealth of experience at club and international level in both regular and sevens rugby, and his commitment is a major boon for a Blacks outfit coming off an encouraging 2013 campaign.

"That's something the club should be jumping up and down about, to have someone of his calibre playing for a club like the Griffith Blacks," Rogo told The Area News.

"It's going to be very good for the club this year."

Vunibaka was part of a 26-man strong Griffith contingent in Albury and spent most of his time in the centres, where the experienced veteran is now of better use than in his old position on the wing.

"I was really happy with how he went, but he's asked me to do a bit more fitness work with him this week," Rogo laughed.

The Blacks went one for three at the tournament but that was perfectly in line with Rogo's expectations.

The coach fielded his first-choice side in the first game only, and the result was a superb 29-0 win over CSU.

"It was pretty convincing. The boys defended really good to keep Reddies scoreless and we were good in attack as well," he said.

Griffith brought more than two dozen players in anticipation they would be able to field two sides in the tournament, but they weren't, and that prompted Rogo to mix things up for the final two games.

Both were losses the last one to tournament winners Albury Thunder, the Group Nine rugby league side but both provided Rogo with enough insight for him to label the weekend a huge success for the Blacks.

"It was good to be able to change the team around and see who the boys are and what they can do for the team this season," he said.

"Some of the boys I had never seen before, some of the boys only turned up to training this week.

"Everyone stepped up when they got the chance to run onto the field."

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