Botiki’s passion for rugby

Peni Botiki (first from right) with Fiji Residents players in Colo-i-Suva. Picture: FILE/JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Peni Botiki (first from right) with Fiji Residents players in Colo-i-Suva. Picture: FILE/JONACANI LALAKOBAU

GROWING up and seeing boys from his village make the Fiji national team and securing overseas contracts, Peni Botiki knew he had the same aspirations.

Peni is no stranger to the rugby league fraternity having donned the national rugby league jersey to the Rugby League World Cup and represented Fiji to a couple of Test matches.

“I have always had a passion for rugby like most children in Fiji and growing up watching our great 7s rugby teams play just ignited that dream of playing professional rugby later in life,” he said.

Now a well-recognised rugby league player, who resides in Australia, the Viseisei lad looks back at his accomplishment with great humility and smiles knowing he had accomplished his dream.

“Growing up in Saru Village where league is mainly played and watched, I immediately fell in love with the sport,” he said.

“I can’t remember the first time I picked up a rugby ball to play, but the first team I played for was the PWD Bure side.

“From there, I realised that I needed to play rugby league because I love the aggressive hard carries and big hits, but my professional rugby league journey actually took off when I travelled to the Cook Islands for the Pacific Games in 2009 which was a life-changing experience.”

Peni, a father to two daughters, said he drew inspiration from his family.

“My grandparents started a good foundation for us and for my dad who raised five children. My father is my hero, he inspires me to never give up on anything especially dreams,” he said.

“For me it was easy to take up a physical sport like rugby league because growing up in a rugby league dominant-village it meant you either play or get left behind.

“As a child I always looked up to former Bati captain and my cousin Semesa Cadrakilagi. We both started from humble beginnings and he has achieved so much over the years. I’m so lucky to have a role model like him and to have played with him too.”

He said rugby was growing quickly in Fiji and it continued to improve with more opportunities now being available for children in Fiji such as coaching and training clinics with overseas teams visiting Fiji to play and interact with the children.

“For me, being away from my family and starting a new life in a new country was a big challenge, but I see these challenges as opportunities that make me want to play better rugby so I can support my family,” he said.

“For training routines I usually train three times a week with my team and I have training session on my own and then a game in the weekend.

“My advice to young players out there is to always have a plan B and strive to achieve your main goal in life.

“It’s important to stay humble on the journey to becoming someone and never forget where you come from.”

Peni hopes to play rugby for a few more years and maybe look into coaching someday especially to children in Fiji.

Peni played for the Saru Dragons in the West then was offered an opportunity with the Illawara Cutter for four years which is the St George Dragon reserve team.

He moved to France in 2016 and in mid 2017 moved back to Australia where he now resides.