Koroibete backs old Storm teammates for grand final glory
RUGBY UNION: Time helped Marika Koroibete become a reliable Wallaby winger and, according to the former Storm flier, it's also going to be the key for his old teammates to win the NRL grand final on Sunday.
This time last year Koroibete was still in Storm colours, playing - and losing - the 2016 grand final against the Cronulla Sharks.
He switched to rugby a few weeks after and one year on, Koroibete will likely be pulling on Wallabies colours for a second Test against the Springboks in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Geographically, Koroibete will be a long way from his Storm links - 10,993km to be exact - but mentally the flying Fijian still has a proud purple streak running through him.
"It has gone so fast. Looking back now at the boys I am very proud of them," Koroibete said.
"Every time they played I always felt I was there with them. But yeah, time has gone fast. This time last year I was playing in a grand final and now I am here in South Africa with the Wallabies."
Due to the tricky logistics of travelling from Bloemfontein to Argentina, the Wallabies will be in mid-air during the NRL grand final but Koroibete is confident the Storm will get the job done.
He still feels the burn of losing last year's decider and Koroibete figures if he feels it, his former Storm teammates will be using that same sting to right the wrongs of 2016.
"The boys have done well this year," Koroibete said.
"There was probably a bit more hurt from last year and they have been angry this year. I know they won't make the same mistakes as we did last year and hopefully they'll get up on Sunday.
"They will also want to send out Coops (Cooper Cronk) well. He deserves to win a grand final and the boys will want to give it to him. Coops deserves that and they'll use the lessons of last year to get a win."
Just 20 days after playing in the NRL grand final, Koroibete was named in the Wallabies' Spring Tour squad and it caused a minor ruckus: here was yet another league recruit fast-tracked into the Wallabies.
But he was anything but rushed in.
Aside from a midweek run for the second-string Wallaby XV against the French Barbarians, Koroibete wasn't used by Michael Cheika on tour.
On a steep learning curve in his debut Super Rugby season for the Melbourne Rebels this year, Koroibete had moments of brilliance and they were enough for Cheika to again pick him in the Wallabies squads for June Tests, and then the Rugby Championship.
But again he spent weeks and months as a training squad member only, before Cheika finally gave him a Test debut against Argentina in Canberra two weeks ago. Coming off the bench, he carried strongly and looked comfortable in the Test arena and all that time helped, Koroibete said.
"It feels like it has been a long while now for me, because after last year (with the Storm) I went away straight away with the team," Koroibete said.
"The coach didn't want to rush me and stuff, so when I went out there I didn't look bad or mess it up. That has been really helpful for me, to learn so much. I am hoping that there are many more Tests to come."
Koroibete said there were on regrets about making his switch to rugby and he is keen to push on and make the Wallabies' squad for the 2019 World Cup.
"It was very emotional (making a Test debut)," he said.
"My family was very proud with how far we have come. It was an honour to pull on the jersey and to be able to make a contribution for the team, it was a dream come true."