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Parents watch son fulfill rugby dream

Sikeli Qounadovu
Thursday, May 18, 2017

FROM the day Manasa Mataele donned his first rugby jersey, his parents have been with him — travelling alongside him and cheering him on from the sidelines.

Twelve years ago, the young Vanuavatu lad ran onto the rugby pitch with his under-9 Suva Methodist Primary School rugby team. His parents made sure to give him that extra morale support.

"We were not rich, we remember selling sandwiches and juice on the sideline and cheering him on," said his mother Sera Mataele.

"We accompanied him to every game from under-9 and when he joined Marist Brothers Primary School. Even when they went to the North for the Milo Kaji tournament and also the Deans competition, we never missed his games," said his father Nacaniele Mataele, who has been a salesman at Prouds for the past 16 years.

Growing up in Raiwai and being the eldest to three other siblings, his parents always advised him to lead by example.

"I always tell him that it does not mean that you are living in Raiwai that this is a place for bad people. You have to be a different person and to show others that Raiwai is not a bad place, you be a good example," said Mr Mataele.

"He always listens. It is home and school, he did not go anywhere else."

"He has that leadership quality. With his younger sibling he knows when to be a child and play with them, and he knows when to stand up to be a big brother," said Mrs Mataele, who is an accounts officer with the Immigration Department.

Ever since falling in love with rugby, the 20-year-old Crusaders wing told his parents that he wanted to be a professional rugby player.

Mataele, who ply's his trade in the country where rugby is a religion, has since graduated with a Diploma in Building Construction and Architectural Technology at the Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki.

"This is to prepare him for the future," said Mrs Mataele.

Despite reaching that level, there was always time for his family.

Since leaving for New Zealand in 2015, the Vanuavatu, Lau, native set the record as one of the fastest non-established Fijian players to make it to Super Rugby and he did that within a space of two years.

"I told him before he went to New Zealand these are the key ingredients to being successful - discipline, and being true to yourself - and those are the things he has acquired. We knew he was going that far, but it was too fast," said Mr Mataele.

"Before his siblings participates he makes sure to call them, video call, to see that they have everything and they are prepared for the game, and he always wants to know whether they have been training.

"He always tells his siblings 'remember you not doing this for you, but you doing it for us, you doing it for our family and our relatives'. He encourages them every time," said Mrs Mataele, who is from Yasawa-i-rara.

Only three years ago Mataele was wearing his white sulu and shirt, leaving his home in Raiwai to attend school at Marist Brothers High School.

Yesterday Mataele returned to the school that helped shape his rugby career. He was accompanied by his uncle and fellow Crusaders team mates Setareki Tamanivalu, Jordan Taufua and two others.

"Main message is keep working hard, attend to the little things because those little things quite often will make the difference," he told the students

"It was very exciting for the students, we kept it quiet but they detected the escort and that caused mayhem immediately, so the students were very excited," said school principal Ben Salacakau.

Described as a well-balanced and dedicated student, Mataele was deputy head boy of the school and an average student that made sure his assignments were always done on time. He was an all-rounder scooping medals in athletics and also guiding the rugby side to the semi-final of the Deans competition.

"He always listens, he was deputy head boy here from 2013 to 2014, he was committed to his school work," said Varasika Monua, the assistant principal.

"He was a silent worker, a dedicated student and he managed all this because of his family background, his parents were very supportive," added his former English teacher and school vice principal Timaima Elder.

Mataele played for the Fiji Under 18 side in the Tri-Nations against Australia and New Zealand where he was spotted and joined the Taranaki Rugby Academy. Less than a year a later he was a surprise inclusion in the Taranaki side for the 2016 Mitre Cup competition and four months later with only six caps he convinced Crusaders selectors who signed him on.

"His achievement is a lesson in itself, he grew up in Raiwai, faced the same problems like every normal teenagers, but he was disciplined and he knew where to draw the line," said Mr Salacakau.

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