FORMER national 7s rep Manueli Laqai is a hero among stars after being named the best player in his first BSP Life Sukuna Bowl encounter, helping his Police team beat defending champion Army 17-15 at Lautoka's Churchill Park yesterday.
Ably supported by his skipper Etonia Naba, old warhorse Mosese Volavola and Iliesa Ratuva, the 26-year-old warrior was tough in defence and elusive in attack, providing the much needed thrust for the lawmen.
Laqai never backed down when facing off against big names in the Army outfit.
He said his first Sukuna game would be cherished, especially when he was playing against the former national reps and tough Army loosemen in skipper Dale Tonawai, Waqabaca Kotobalavu, Jolame Bera and Leone Nakarawa.
The rugged open side flanker said he was surprised when he was named the best player considering the many big names in both teams.
Laqai said winning the best player award was an icing on the cake and thanked his teammates for their courageous display and laying their bodies on the line to win the coveted Sukuna Bowl.
"Playing against the big names in the Army team enabled me to come out of my comfort zone and to help my teammates win this important encounter," the Rewa native said.
"I thank the Almighty God for giving me the guts, talents and the strength to play and win this award, more so helping my team to win the Sukuna Bowl after a lapse of two years."
He dedicated the win to the Police family for their continued support.
Both teams scored a try each.
Ratuva and Semesa Takirua scoring for Police with Ralulu adding the extras from two conversions and a drop goal.
Army's tries were scored by Sireli Ledua and Nakarawa with former national rep Seta Koroilagilagi adding the extras.
Police last won the Sukuna Bowl in 2009.