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Ready to fly

Rashneel Kumar
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

ALIPATE Raitini is ready to fly for the National Rugby League (NRL) club Cronulla Sharks after signing a one-year contract earlier this week.

The former Digicel Fiji sevens speedster attended a trial with the Sharks and impressed coach Shane Flanagan with his lightning speed and skills.

The elder cousin of Wests Tigers speedster Marika Koroibete said he preferred rugby league to union and was ready to stamp his mark in the NRL competition. "I'm getting ready to jump onto the field," Raitini told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The training is very different in Fiji, at home I would just do running like three or six kilometres but here it's a little bit of running but more gym work.

"I enjoy playing rugby league and when my agent asked me if I prefer league or union I told him league."

Fiji Rugby Union coaching director Franck Boivert believes Raitini is a big loss for the national 7s and 15s side.

The Namosi man, who made his debut for the Fiji 7s team at the Gold Coast 7s in Australia earlier this year, was also named in the 80-member Pacific Rugby Cup squad by Flying Fijians coach Inoke Male.

Boivert said the onus was on the national 7s selectors to identify the right replacement for Raitini in the upcoming International Rugby Board Sevens World Series leg in Wellington and Las Vegas.

"The selectors will have to look for the best replacement but still it's a loss for the Fiji 7s and 15s team alike," Boivert said.

"He (Raitini) knows what's best for him and we cannot stop anyone from trading their talent with overseas clubs."

Meanwhile Flanagan said he was excited by Raitini's raw talent.

"There's a little bit of hope there for us but it has given someone an opportunity," Flanagan told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Who knows, he may turn out to be a superstar. If you YouTube his name you'll see some really good footage, he is really fast and has scored some great tries."

Raitini, who will resume pre-season training on January 7, is expected to start the season in NSW Cup and most likely on the wing.

While he has committed to the club for one season, there is a mutual option to extend that deal into 2014.

"We'll let him find his feet at training and in rugby league," Flanagan said. "He hasn't played league at any real competitive level so if he gets a first-grade game this season it's a bonus.

"I've spoken to a couple of our ex-Wests Tigers boys and they say (Raitini) is very similar to (Koroibete) who was quietly spoken and just spoke when he had to.

"We're hoping he follows the same path."

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