IF there's one thing about wet weather, it produces rain and mud.
In the game of rugby, this can mean slippery balls and sloppy play.
So when Vatukoula and national under-20 coach Inoke Male arrived in Labasa last year to atrocious weather conditions, he did not expect any player to shine. Scouting for players to make up his under-20 team to the Junior World Championship in Italy, Male was ready to pack his bags and return home empty-handed.
At the tournament, however, was a young Namosi lad who intended to run with the ball. And run he did. His skills, pace and athleticism sparked Male's interest, and in the driving rain, the rise of Alipate Raitini began.
"I spotted Alipate in the first week of January last year. He was playing for a team from Nabouwalu at rover, a position he played when he was in the Lelean under-19," Male, who had since taken over as head coach of the Flying Fijians recalled.
"The tournament was held on a wet day and play was sloppy. I was impressed on how he handled the difficult situation. He also displayed talent and was named player of the tournament."
From Nabouwalu, where he lived with a civil servant brother, Raitini accepted Male's offer to join him in Vatukoula.
"It was not difficult to approach him and I did not have to persuade him. We both took the opportunity with both hands," Male added.
Raitini experienced no growing pains as he turned 21 eight months ago and matured into the game. He capped off the year since his first encounter with Male with a string of successes.
The under-20 team in Italy (which included the mesmerising Metuisela Talebula) finished sixth in the World Championship, the Vatukoula 7s team he represented during the Fiji TV 7s series was placed an impressive fourth in the tournament and after improved play, his Vatukoula B Division team was promoted this year.
"Pate was one of the boys brought in from Labasa, the other being Semi Radradra who played in last year's Gold Coast 7s and is now with Parramatta Eels.
"When I took up head coach early this year, I took him with the Fiji Warriors team that beat the (Waikato) Chiefs development side. His potential is boundless, the same guy (lanky winger Tim Mikkelson) that he ran around twice in Te Kuiti, he ran around again last week in the Gold Coast," a satisfied Male related yesterday.
Raitini scored a hat-trick in last week's final against New Zealand helping a rampant Fiji side claim back to back titles at the opening round of the international rugby sevens series on the Gold Coast.
He revealed that he still played a pivotal role in Raitini's life.
"Ever since he was brought in from Nabouwalu to Vatukoula and to Suva, I always give him fatherly advice and I support his plans for his future. He is very bright and will be successful if he sticks to, and improves from where he is right now."
And on whether the Wainimakutu star who walked barefoot as a schoolboy would ever play for his home province, the former number eight from Raralevu, Tailevu, laughingly said, "Why? Because you're from Namosi too?"
Then on a serious note he added, "As far as I am concerned, his future is more important than where he plays, that's my main concern."
The future for the "fast and furious" Raitini includes being pencilled in for a trip today to Australia with the Wardens team for the Central Coast Sevens.
The star studded line up includes national reps — Ilai Tinai, Lepani Botia and Joji Ragamate.