MAL Meninga’s 22-year-old nephew could be with the Gold Coast Titans next year after starring in Vanuatu’s historic, nail-biting win over international league newcomers Niue.
Rangy back-rower Joey Meninga crossed for the home side’s second try in a 22-20 win at Port Vila’s Municipal Stadium, a result secured in the 78th minute after Niue came back from 10-0 down to lead for much of the second half.
Sunshine Coast Sea Eagle Meninga was seen talking to Gold Coast official Matt Francis at fulltime on Saturday and it’s understood the possibility of a move to the tourist strip was discussed.
“I’m not sure about next year – I’m still keen to play footy, I’m just looking for another club to go to,” Meninga told Fairfax Media.
“I want to have a good shot at it now, while I’m still young. My time’s coming up now. I don’t want to not go for it now and later regret it.
“Every week I’m improving. Hopefully something comes up.”
Joe said his family’s connection to Vanuatu went back to great great grandfather Tom, who was relocated to Queensland to work on the cane fields as part of the blackbird movement.
“My great, great grandfather came from Tanner Island,” said Meninga. “He was blackbirded, to work on the sugar cane field. I think it might have been to Bundaberg.
“The reason he was allowed to stay in Australia was that he married an Irishwoman.
“Uncle Mal comes to Vanuatu all the time, he does charity work and stuff here. Tom Meninga is his great grandfather.”
While increased ticket prices are not restricted to the NRL – and probably kept Saturday’s crowd down on last year’s attendance for a game against Greece – the result was Vanuatu’s first home win and Niu’s first ever full international.
Victory was snatched when halfback Josh Tanner snuck over from close range after a 73nd minute Niue try had appeared to create a wide enough gap between the visibly tiring teams.
There was controversy over a late try to Vanuatu’s Jason Pakaosongi, who appeared to be tackled touch-in-goal. “Unfortunately we don’t have men upstairs to check it in games like this,” said Niue’s Brad Watkinson. “We didn’t think it was a try but refereeing is refereeing everywhere.”
Melbourne Storm centre Justin O’Neill is eligible for Vanuatu but is yet to play for them. Most of the Niue side is based in New Zealand, although Watkinson plays for Dewsbury.
Ten members of Vanuatu coach David Simpson’s squad were from the domestic league.
VANUATU 22 (Geoffry Kausei, Joe Meninga, Sam Pierce, Jason Pakaosongi, Josh Tanner tries; Tanner goal) beat NIUE 20 (Chris Ulukita 2, Jordan Tongiahiri, Kodezz Simeki tries; Alex Seini-Edwards 2 goals) at Municipal Stadium, Port Vila. Referee: Peter Gough (Australia). Crowd: About 3000
Filed for: SUN-HERALD