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Kikau cashes in after horror 12 months

Martin Gabor -

After an injury-plagued first year in Belmore, boom back-rower Viliame Kikau has played a key role in leading the Bulldogs into the top eight, with their attack finally starting to click into gear after some early teething problems.

Kikau was one of the big-money signings for 2023 who was supposed to bring the winning culture from Penrith to a club that has been starved of success.

But he never got going, with the Fijian star suffering a serious pec injury that kept him out for four months and limited him to just nine appearances in his first year in blue and white.

Viliame Kikau didn't get to show off his immense talent in 2023 due to injuries. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Viliame Kikau didn't get to show off his immense talent in 2023 due to injuries. (Image: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

"It's been a really challenging 12 months for me," he said.

"Coming to a new club, I really wanted to put my best foot forward for this club and to gain the trust from the players and to get that trust and respect from the team.

"That's all I've been playing footy for, but it didn't work out for me. I sat back and worked on myself mentally because I couldn't do much when injuries happen.

"I just wanted to make sure that I put in a good pre-season in the summer, and then hopefully it pays off this year."

Kikau will be one of the players to watch when he runs out against the Wests Tigers on Saturday, with the edge forward playing some of the best footy of his career as evidenced by him leading the Dally Ms a few weeks ago.

He's only four points off top spot heading into round 9, with Kikau part of a potent left edge featuring Matt Burton, Bronson Xerri and the electric Josh Addo-Carr.

Kikau has already had some monster performances this season, with 163m, seven tackle busts and two line breaks against the Roosters, while he had three line-break assists in a game they should have won against the Storm.

Kikau was unstoppable against the Roosters earlier this season. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Kikau was unstoppable against the Roosters earlier this season. (Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

"I was just trying my best, and that's what I've always done," he said, with the Bulldogs working out the best way to use him in attack.

"Injuries just kept piling up for me with little niggles over the past 12 months, but it was probably a blessing in disguise for me.

"I got out of the game for a bit and was given time to work on my mental stuff. It's good to come in this year with a fresh mindset.

"It's definitely the fittest I've ever been, so hopefully I keep building and stay injury free."

While Kikau and the left edge have dominated, Canterbury's right side is still taking time to work on combinations after more changes in the off-season.

It's led to calls for Drew Hutchison to be replaced, but the halfback isn't fazed by the outside noise.

Drew Hutchison has had his critics this season, but he's not worried about what they have to say. Picture: NRL Photos

Drew Hutchison has had his critics this season, but he's not worried about what they have to say. (Image: NRL Photos)

"You look at the athletes that we have in our team, and I wouldn't call myself one of them," Hutchison said.

"My job is to give them as much chance as possible to shine and showcase what they can do, breaking open games.

"That's always a part of our game plan.

"The only time I hear (the outside noise) is when friends bring it up, but I don't pay much attention to that.

"The only thing we can control is how we play. You're a professional athlete, I don't think you really need reassurance of your position."

Martin Gabor - NCA NewsWire

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