Panthers star cleared to play after visa bungle
RAMPAGING Penrith forward Viliame Kikau has been cleared to join teammates for the Panthers' crucial away game against New Zealand on Friday after an immigration issue was resolved.
The Panthers confirmed this morning Kikau was cleared to travel to New Zelaand.
Penrith officials were frantically scrambling to secure Australian residency for their star back-rower but thought he'd only be a "50-50" proposition to make the trip across the Tasman.
The Panthers had been working with Department of Immigration officials for the past five months to try and sort the bureaucratic drama.
It is understood Kikau's management ticked the wrong box on a government visa form when their client was representing Fiji at last year's Rugby League World Cup in New Zealand.
The error meant travel restrictions were placed on the rampaging Panthers forward.
Kikau, 23, was born in Nausori and is a Fijian citizen, but wants Australian residency.
Any attempts to leave the country before his residency is processed could void his current application.
But now a new visa has been granted which allows Kikau to travel in and out of Australia.
The residency issue is still pending.
Panthers general manager of football, Phil Gould, admitted on Monday he wasn't overly confident Kikau's residency headache would be sorted in time.
"He can leave the country on his Fijian passport, but wouldn't be able to return to Australia," Gould said.
"He would have to go back to Fiji and apply again to come to Australia.
"If he leaves Australia now, his Australian residency application would be compromised. Trying to get assistance but it's a complicated process."
Asked did he think they could cut through the red tape in time for Kikau to face the eighth-placed Warriors, Gould said: "We won't make him travel unless we can get him home.
"It's not ideal in the short term, but respect for the longer term that Billy is very passionate about gaining his Australian residency."
Penrith officials discussed the Kikau issue at a football meeting Monday morning. One official said the club was going "100 miles an hour" to try and work through the issue.
Losing Kikau for the Auckland game would have been a significant blow to Penrith and the club's top-four chances.
Kikau has emerged as one of the most devastating ball-runners in the NRL this season, and was one catalyst for their recent comeback wins against Manly and the Gold Coast.