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Fiji Time: 6:53 PM on Saturday 19 April

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All-time greatest

Kameli Rakoko
Saturday, December 28, 2013

THIS week's column we would like to give a bit more highlight on the life of Narewa, Nadi's Joseva Levula and his achievements in New Zealand and the 1952, 1954 and 1957 tours of Australia and NZ.

Here's some extra material from Bulou Mere Cavalevu, the granddaughter of George Cavalevu, sent to this newspaper last week.

"We, the Cavalevu family would like to sincerely thank you sir for your contribution in the Saturday, December 14 addition of Blast From The Past, 'Fijians rated highly'.

"If you could please include some story that needs to be highlighted. It was common knowledge at that time that my grandad and Joe Levula were best of friends until Joe Levula and Orisi Dawai left Fiji to play rugby league in Rochdale, England.

"In fact my grand dad was offered the same contract but declined citing injuries as the reason.

"From what information we gathered it was said that Joe Levula invited my grandad to his welcoming ceremony after the 1951 tour of New Zealand not knowing what was in store for him.

"At the ceremony he was presented a tabua and showered with traditional gifts from Levula's family. Levula had told his relatives that it was through those quality cut-out passes from my grandad that allowed him to finish off in style.

"He cited that without my grandad he would not have made his name.

"It was at the function that my grandad came to know that Levula was a member of the chiefly family of Narewa.

"Please sir, could you also highlight that my grandad is perhaps the youngest Fijian captain ever at the mere age of 22.

"He retired after the 1954 tour of Australia three years later never to involve himself in the game that made him an international rugby star.

"Lastly sir, no words can describe how glad we were in reading your Blast From The Past column which is so great of you."

The two men were included in the 1952 New Zealand Rugby Almanack with Rusiate Vuruya as among the five best players in New Zealand in 1951.

Here is the full citation on Levula: "The outstanding player was Joseva Levula, a wing three-quarter who would be first choice for any team in the world: a beautifully built athlete. Levula has phenomenal speed and took power stopping.

"Joseva Levula is indeed a great wing three-quarter and we believe the world's best and his visit as a member of the Fijian side, coming on top of the performances of Ken Jones (Wales and British Isles happy memoris) and our own New Zealanders Ray Roper (1950) and Ronald Jaren (1950-1951) has given us the opportunity to compare four men, who surely must be the speediest quartet of three-quarters ever to grace our rugby turf.

"Levula, however, was more than a mere runner. He showed himself to be well versed in the rugby art and that associated with unorthodoxy at his play, his high knee action and long stride made him a star among stars."

Fiji teammate to the 1951 NZ tour, 1952, 1954 Australia tour and 1957 NZ tour, Suliasi Vatubua said this of Levula on the Australian tour: "Our first game was against Southland and the team was made up of Wallaby players.

"We played at the North Sydney Oval and won easily.

"Again the star of the match was big Joe Levula.

"He was in a class of his own on the rugby field and the Aussies just loved him in action."

He said the Nadi man was always cool when the going was tough but when he was angry he would just take an opponent by the jersey and throw him out of the field with ease.

In 1957 Levula toured with Fiji again to New Zealand and for the second time he was included again in the NZ Rugby Almanack with number eight Nacanieli Nabaro.

Paul Neazor of Skysports, New Zealand wrote of the 1957 tour: "Once again the tourists had several world-class players including Levula, loose forward Nacanieli Nabaro (who was considered to be the finest forward to tour New Zealand since the war), lock Isikeli Cawa, a powerful front row and another dangerous winger in Baniua Tanivukavu.

"Levula scored 11 tries on this tour, making him the only player to have scored 10 or more tries on two separate tours of New Zealand; this record has never been challenged since."

Meanwhle, the Fiji Rugby Union may have to update its records as it has Senivalati Laulau top scoring with 20 tries.

But Levula totaled just 21 tries on two NZ tours and he top scored in every game he played for Fiji from 1952, 1954 tours of Australia.