School Teacher Bags Five Tries To Shatter 65-Year Roosters Record
Matt Ikuvalu had a night to remember in Townsville.
Sydney Roosters head coach Trent Robinson told the reserve winger just 20 minutes before kick-off that he'd be starting against the North Queensland Cowboys in their Thursday night clash - and the 26-year-old certainly didn't disappoint.
Coming in late for the injured Brett Morris, who went down during the warm-up with a groin strain, Ikuvalu went on to score five tries in the Roosters' 42-16 demolition job of the Cowboys.
And if his seven tackle busts, four linebreaks and 152 metres wasn't enough, Ikuvalu's five-try haul means he becomes the first Tri-Colours player to achieve such a feat since Brian Allsop back in 1955.
"He deserves real credit for preparation," Robinson said after the game.
"You see (James) Tedesco and the Morris twins and all that but then there is a group of (reserve) guys who are fighting tooth and nail to perform.
"They just get to train really hard and they may not play this year (with no reserve grade) or get the call up 20 minutes before kickoff to perform and then you have to deliver for your club.
"He's a great story."
Incredibly, Ikuvalu hung up his footy boots back in 2016.
His desire to become a school teacher combined with persistent injuries forced the powerhouse back to put his NRL dreams on hold - or so he thought.
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While juggling his university eduction on the side, Ikuvalu continued to impress for the Wyong Roos in the New South Wales Cup, meaning he quickly found himself on the Roosters' radar once again and back in their training squad.
Now, after being plucked from the stands to bag five impressive tries on the road, Roosters boss Robinson admits it would be tough to drop the high-flying finisher - even if his starting wingers return from injury.
"It's hard because a guy like that has been with us for a while," Robinson said.
"He trained on occasions with us, we were kicking across to Daniel Tupou, and 'Toops' catches those balls and scores on the reserve wingers and Matty just kept plucking them.
"He didn't have a contract and we said this guy is pretty good, we signed him, and yeah he's a Rooster and that's a real credit to him.
"The first to score five tries for a Rooster since '55, and he's a really humble, shy kid. He deserves real credit for his preparation.
"You should prepare yourself in the shadows and you get your rewards in the spotlight when it comes."
With latest casualties Brett Morris (groin) and Jake Friend (concussion) joining Boyd Cordner (head), Victor Radley (ACL), Sam Verrils (ACL), Billy Smith (ACL), Daniel Tupou (Syndesmosis) and Isaac Liu (ribs) on the physio's packed treatment table, perhaps other record-shattering Roosters are waiting in the wings to make their mark.
And who knows, they might even get more than 20 minutes notice when it's their turn.
Featured Image Credit: Sydney Roosters Twitter
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