Vunivalu recounts Bali horror: ‘He saved my life’
SULI Vunivalu feared for his life moments after he was coward punched by at least two people which sparked the wild scenes outside a Bali nightclub involving teammate Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
The Storm winger broke his silence on Thursday revealing he "blacked out" and had "no idea" what happened before he was told he had been punched at least twice during an end of season trip with his Melbourne teammates.
He said the hulking Asofa-Solomona saved his life after he feared being set upon for a second time and being placed in a Balinese jail.
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"I didn't see anything," Vunivalu said. "All I know was there was an Australian guy with two Balinese. I blacked out but when I came to I looked up and I was like 'holy heck what just happened'. I was so scared.
"I didn't see it coming. I was lucky I didn't fall and hit my head because people would have been visiting in a coma from my hospital bed.
"The scariest bit was being punched and having no idea it happened. I would've defended myself and tried to dodge the punch but I didn't have time. It was out of the blue that I got punched."
Needing seven stitches and still having obvious swelling Vunivalu is still sporting significant scars from the night. He said he had not encountered the attackers before and believed they did not know he was an NRL player.
Instead he felt they set upon him because he was standing alone.
"I was out there with a few of the boys but I was standing by myself on the balcony at the top of the club," Vunivalu said. "Nelson was probably the next closest but he was still three or four metres away.
"It all just happened so fast. Nelson came rushing to me and I asked who hit me. He knew who it was straight away because he saw it all."
About 11 Storm players were celebrating their second night at La Favela club in Seminyak. The group in Bali included Vunivalu, Asofa-Solomona, Josh Addo-Carr, Sandor Earl and Cameron Munster.
Vunivalu said he was unsure if he had been wrongly pinged for a spilt drink which was reported as sparking the ugly scenes but was sure none of his Corona had tipped on anyone.
Vunivalu was quickly attended to by the owner of the pub and security after the attack.
"The security came running over and told us they saw what happened and they would give us the video footage to help out," Vunivalu said. "The cut was really close to my eye so they wanted to make sure I could still see. They tried to stop the bleeding. I've never had this cut like this in a footy game.
"The owner wanted me to go to hospital."
The trouble followed when Vunivalu and Asofa-Solomona were led outside by security who had also thrown out the attackers.
A vulnerable Vunivalu said he was afraid of being set upon again. He indicated this is when Asofa-Solomona stepped in to save his winger and threw a flurry of punches on the people who attacked his teammate.
"I was so scared they would come at me again," Vunivalu said. "Nelson looked at me and told me 'I've got your back brother, I will look after you'. We are basically like brothers. We've roomed together since 2016. He had seen what they had already done to me and that's why he acted the way he did.
"He was just protecting me. Anyone would've done the same thing for their brother. What do we want him to do? He is a footy player so he isn't supposed to protect his mate? He would've done what any person would have done in his position.
"Had he not done that the situation would've ended up a lot worse for me."
Vunivalu quickly dragged his teammate from the scene in a taxi and headed for their villa. As soon as he got back to his room he called a doctor to help repair the damage to his battered face.
"Nelson was feeling really bad," Vunivalu said. "He was saying sorry to me. Saying sorry for the way the night ended. I was like 'don't be sorry, you defended me'. He is a guy that causes no trouble. I don't want him to miss any games for the Kiwis. He didn't try and start any trouble. He just couldn't let his mate get punched."
The NRL are expected to finalise its investigations next week.
Vunivalu joined his Fijian teammates in camp in Sydney ahead of the world nines. Despite a nagging hamstring injury which ruled him out of the Storm's preliminary finals loss against the Roosters he wants to play.