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Don't believe the hype: Why did Bulldogs fork out big bucks for the most overrated player in the NRL?

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Expert
11th April, 2024
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Much has been made of the spending spree undertaken at the Bulldogs under the watchful eye of Phil Gould. Whilst plenty of reputed names have been brought into the squad, the club looks to have also picked up a player that some would suggest is the most over-rated in the game.

Viliame Kikau made his name in the youthful Penrith side that has now grown into a machine.

He is an enormous man, can run like a gazelle when in full flight and possesses a physical presence that puts edge defenders into a state of sheer terror, if and when he decides to impact the contest.

However, the infrequency with which Kikau actually does take the bull by the horns and impose himself on a game of rugby league, as well as his statistical normality compared to others across the competition, suggests he is far more bark than bite.

It is potentially why the Panthers did not mount a massive fight to retain his services for the 2023 season.

In six years at the foot of the mountains, Kikau played in a Panther unit that won 91 of 123 matches, participated in three consecutive grand finals from 2020 to 2022, and claimed the title in the latter two of those years.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Viliame Kikau of the Panthers is tackled during the round 18 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Penrith Panthers at CommBank Stadium, on July 17, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Viliame Kikau built a reputation at the Panthers that the Bulldogs looked to capitalise on. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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Kikau left. The Panthers won again in 2023 and frankly, lost nothing with his absence. Some might even argue there was more balance across the attacking line.

Yet the Bulldogs believed the hype and invested $3.2 million dollars over four years for the back-rower.

Whatever your thoughts around Kikau and his play, there is not a person on the planet who could justify that price tag based on what he is producing for the Bulldogs in 2024. If Kikau was an investment property, I would be cutting my losses ASAP!

Most dangerous as a fringe ball runner close to the line, Kikau’s ability to break tackles, offload and draw numbers into contact should be his greatest assets.

Yet he is ranked 43rd in the competition with just three line breaks and while his six offloads see him ranked 27th in the NRL, the combined data falls well short of the wrecking ball reputation he curiously developed without any real substance behind it.

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Kikau sits outside the top 50 in post-contact metres, with forward teammate Josh Curran setting the engine room standard and has four backline teammates ahead of him and inside the top 50 when it comes to tackle breaks.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 19: Viliame Kikau of the Bulldogs is tackled during the NRL Trial Match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Cronulla Sharks at Belmore Sports Ground on February 19, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Surely the Bulldogs wanted more out of Viliame Kikau? (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

There are five Bulldogs inside the top 50 when it comes to half-breaks, with Kikau nowhere in sight, and the only metrics where the 29-year-old is potentially pulling his weight are try assists and line-break assists, where he has a collective total of six.

However, it is defensively where the alarm bells should be ringing around Canterbury’s reputational recruit.

Kikau has missed 22 tackles in five matches and ranks an embarrassing fourth worst in the NRL. His tackle efficiency is poor at 81.97%, almost five per cent lower than his worst year at the Panthers. Historically, he has been around the 90% mark.

Kikau has made just 100 tackles this season, despite the Dogs being forced to do plenty and only a sparkling and barnstorming set of attacking statistics could excuse such defensive numbers.

However, as pointed out earlier, his red zone production has not matched his pay grade.

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Throw in an equal fourth-ranked NRL performance thus far in conceding penalties and moderate average run metres at 112 and it is difficult to see Kikau as anything more than a run of the mill first-grader and not the star many Bulldogs fans thought they were employing.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo looks on during the round 11 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Penrith Panthers at Sydney Cricket Ground, on May 21, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Cameron Ciraldo saw Kikau’s potential at the Panthers, yet it remains unfulfilled. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

It is a damning set of numbers for the 116kg Fijian and ones that coach Cameron Ciraldo may be forced to act upon in the near future, with the season soon to be a quarter done and Kikau failing to produce after a healthy off-season and great promise for 2024.

Rather oddly, Kikau currently sits equal sixth in Dally M voting with 11 points, an astonishing situation that highlights the ridiculous nature of the award and the fact that so-called good judges must be watching different games of football to me.

Kikau can be a weapon on his day, but the numbers prove he is currently not worth the blue and white money that bought him and those who cited the same at Penrith before his departure may have been correct.

Based on salary and production, Viliame Kikau is competing very well for the title of the most overrated player in the game.

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