Whenever buys of the 2021 NRL season have been up for discussion, the expected names have featured.
Vodafone Warriors signings Addin Fonua-Blake and Reece Walsh naturally attract widespread support as do the likes of Parramatta’s former Vodafone Warrior Isaiah Papali’i, Gold Coast’s David Fifita and Tino Fa'asuamalueai, Manly Warringah’s Kieran Foran and Melbourne’s Reimis Smith.
One name that has been overlooked – but shouldn’t be – is 25-yeard-old Vodafone Warriors winger Marcelo Montoya.
He may have been largely unheralded among the Vodafone Warriors’ seven new signings going into the 2021 campaign but by season’s end he was a nominee for the coveted players’ player of the year award alongside the much-vaunted Addin Fonua-Blake and Tohu Harris. That was the ultimate acknowledgement from his teammates.
Such was the scale of his contribution both on the field and around the team off it that Montoya was singled out as the Canterbury of New Zealand Clubman of the Year. He meets all the values the award stands for.
Born in Fiji and also boasting Chilean heritage, he had excelled as a rookie in 2017 after making his NRL debut against the Vodafone Warriors in Dunedin but across the next three seasons he was unable to build on his start.
Finishing at the Bulldogs with 19 tries in 54 appearances, Montoya spoke of the Vodafone Warriors presenting just what he needed at that stage of his career – a fresh start in a new environment and with it a new challenge to reboot his career.
He started out with feeder club Redcliffe in the Intrust Super Cup but when experienced Peta Hiku was injured in the third round, head coach Nathan Brown called on Montoya to come into the centres.
After four games he had a spell on the sideline with injury but once he returned against the Wests Tigers in round 11, Montoya fully established himself by appearing in each of the last 14 matches of the season. While he filled in at centre on occasion he excelled on the left wing, locking down the spot for the last eight rounds.
He finished with 18 appearances, scoring five tries and averaging 125 metres a game – the best in his five NRL seasons – with a total of seven line breaks and 41 tackle breaks. He was assured under the high ball and consistent bringing the ball back out of trouble.
Among new signings across the years, Montoya would certainly rank among the best performers in his first season with the club.