Viliame Kikau ready to lead from the front for Canterbury as excitement builds at Belmore

Viliame Kikau has acknowledged that his presence on the field won’t be measured by the way he motivates those around him with impassioned speeches or rev-ups, instead it will be purely through his actions where he attempts to make a statement.  

“I’m not a big talker on the field, so I’m just sort of trying to make my performance do the talking,” he told Bulldogs.com.

The two-time premiership-winning backrower has forged a reputation for coming up with the big play when it’s needed most, and he will be expected to do so again when he dons the Canterbury colours this season.

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Kikau was the anchor which Penrith built their lethal left-edge around for several years. The back-to-back premiers profiting off the service he provided to the likes of Matt Burton and Taylan May with his underappreciated passing game and rampaging carries. 

The former Panthers star has now moved on to pastures new, forming a mouth-watering combination with Burton and Josh Addo-Carr at the Bulldogs, as they attempt to right the wrongs from their previous campaigns.

“I’ve always heard stories about winning grand finals,” Kikau said.  

“You hear from people who have done it before and there are a lot of players who finish their career without getting up there.

“I guess for me, that’s always been a challenge. They say when you reach the top- what’s the motivation up there? I think it’s to stay at the top.”

However, the big Fijian is faced with a new prospect due to departing after six successful years at the foot of the mountains. He will no longer be a part of the all-conquering Panthers outfit who rolled through the rest of the competition on their way to three successive grand final appearances.

Kikau is now expected to lead from the front in a new-look Canterbury team which is being led by former Penrith assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo.

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“He’s obviously played a big part in my career, I can say that and that’s from the heart, too,” Kikau said.

“He’s so good. He’s a good communicator and I feel like he’s great at listening and understanding players that he coaches. That was one of the main things about his coaching that stood out for me.”

Kikau isn’t the only one who has been impressed with Ciraldo’s ability to create strong bonds within a playing group.

Braidon Burns also spoke highly of him after featuring under his watch in a successful youth team in the past. 

“He values the stuff that nobody sees,” Burns said last year. 

“He was a great coach. He found ways to get the best out of his players, and I think the way he approaches the game and what he values will be really good here.

“I think he’ll be huge for the younger players because he understands the game so well and communicates with everyone really well.”

Ciraldo has often been viewed as the chief architect behind Penrith’s impenetrable defence and a major cog that has made them such a dominant force.  

“He’s been an integral part of that club’s success,” Canterbury’s general manager, Phil Gould, noted after luring him to the Dogs.

“He has done probably a better apprenticeship than most coaches that come into this role.

“He has been very close to the head coach out there in Ivan Cleary for a number of years. He’s been in and around this a lot closer than a lot of assistant coaches get during their tenure.”

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The task for Ciraldo will be piecing it together though with one of the game’s best backrowers joining him on the journey to get the Bulldogs back into premiership contention. 

Despite carrying out a massive roster overhaul – Stephen Crichton will join the Penrith exodus at Belmore in 2024 – expectations are already reaching fever pitch around the club.

Although Ciraldo will still have to decide on who will captain the side after being blindsided with the shock retirement of long-term skipper Josh Jackson in 2022. 

Kikau is unlikely to be handed the reins given his preference for actions over words, but he will undoubtedly form part of a leadership group where he will use his experience and ability to help turn Canterbury into a force once more. 

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