Turuva’s last-minute tux shop ahead of Dally M awards

Jasper Bruce and George Clarke |

Penrith winger Sunia Turuva was genuinely surprised to be nominated for Dally M rookie of the year, so much so that he doesn’t own a tuxedo and didn’t think to buy one before getting the nod.

A spot on the wing at the back-to-back NRL premiers opened up after Taylan May went down with an anterior cruciate ligament injury in February, and logical replacement Charlie Staines joined Wests Tigers.

Despite only three games of first-grade experience, Turuva wasted little time securing the vacancy.

The 21-year-old has gone on to play 25 games this year, including both of the Panthers’ finals wins. 

He has been instrumental for Penrith coming out of the back-field, running for the eighth-most metres of any player this season and scoring 12 tries – the third-most of any Panther.

Turuva has the chance to cap his stellar year with both a premiership ring in the grand final against Brisbane on Sunday, and the rookie of the year award.

On Sunday the NRL announced Turuva as one of three nominees for the honour, alongside Wests Tigers fullback Jahream Bula and Melbourne’s rugby sevens convert Will Warbrick.

Amid a busy week preparing for the grand final, Turuva has been forced to make time to shop for a tuxedo.

“I’ve been to have a look, but I know I need to confirm with it coming up tomorrow night,” he told AAP on Tuesday.

“Green is my colour, so maybe (I’ll go green). 

“Even just to be in the chat and tossed around (with) those names like Warbrick and Bula is pretty special.”

Rookie of the year is one of few awards the Panthers have not claimed since their resurgence began in 2020. 

At least once in the past three seasons, the Panthers have had a player at each position in the Dally M team of the year, except for at five-eighth and fullback. 

Ivan Cleary won coach of the year in 2020, with Isaah Yeo chosen as the league’s best captain last season.

But no Panther has won rookie or player of the year before or since Greg Alexander did so in back-to-back years in 1984 and 1985.

By the time the club surged to dominance in 2020, most of Penrith’s premiership winners were too seasoned to be eligible for the award.

Alexander liked Turuva’s chances of joining him in the history books come Wednesday night.

“I thought we might really miss Taylan and it (the wing) might be a position that we’re not as strong,” he told AAP.

“But Sunia’s been remarkable, he’s had a great year. He’s fearless, good under the high ball. 

“He gives away a fair bit of height, but he’s never really been outpointed, he just gets his body into the contest.

“The rookie class is pretty strong this year, but Sunia’s been as good as anyone.”