Fuli’s steady rise to rugby glory

It happens to all of us.

In the midst of our endevour for success and fame, it takes determination and sacrifice to make our hopes and dreams recognised in the work we do.

A man with the reputation of being a fearsome player and as an enemy to his opponents in the sport of rugby, injury ended a brilliant career to what many believed could have earned him a living for many years. But there is another life after every rugby player hangs his boots.

Growing up in a society once notorious for its criminal activities is not easy so to turn out well is no mean feat in Nabua, which has produced some iconic rugby figures in Fiji.

With the likes of Waisale Serevi, the Rauluni brothers, Sakiusa Matadigo, Neori Buli, Ilaitia Takaladau, Semiti Raikuna, and the Nabua boys who accomplished the memorable “three-peat performance in Hong Kong in the late 1990s,” the public’s perception of the village began to change slowly but surely.

I recall growing up and walking the streets of this beloved modified urban village we call our home and how rugby plays an important role in moulding its youths and surrounding areas.

Hanging around with the big boys and as their water boy on many occasions at the British American Tabbaco ground during training, Fuli as he is commonly known, had done the hard yards before becoming a national rep.

While at the helm of the Fiji Sevens team, Ratu Kitione Vesikula introduced an energetic Saiasi Fuli who broke into the scene of the international Rugby Board Sevens Series with an immense show of raw brilliant talent.

The late Tu Kiti highly commended Fuli for his ability to create space out wide. Without doubt, Fuli showed class in his first debut at the Hong Kong 7s.

He was regarded as a complete player and the motive behind his dream to become this was the disciplined character he possessed on and off the field.

The Kadavu man always set his eyes on bigger ventures and what many admired in him the most was his focus when under pressure.

Simultaneous to his rugby career was a degree course at the University of the South Pacific. But he had to cut short the former to pursue the latter on a full time basis.

Fuli has since graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Economics and Public Management from the USP. He was contracted as USP Rugby head coach in charge of students from Pacific Island countries playing in the university team.

He has completed the IRB Level Two Coaching Certificate course another great achievement for the former Nabua and Suva player.

Fuli’s love for rugby began when he was at Lelean Memorial School where he played from the under-13 right up to the under-19 grade. With courage and a never-say-die attitude, Fuli captained the champion under-17 team that beat Queen Victoria School in a nail-bitting final. And in 2001, he attended the national trials.

In 1997, he was selected to play for the East selection in the Fiji Secondary School competition to play against their compatriots from the West. His rise to international fame got underway when he was selected to play for the Fiji under-21 in the Pacific Tri-Series a year later.

The soft spoken man played for Suva from 1998 to 2000 but injury ruled him out for the rest of the 2001 season. On June 12, 2004 Fuli made his debut for the full code against Samoa at the National Stadium.

He enjoyed a two-year stint in the national team from 2004 to 2005 and achieved a personal milestone when he played against a New Zealand XV team.

His brightest rugby days are described by the way he communicated with players around him on the field of play. Fuli was the first choice halfback for the Highlanders from 2004 to 2006 during the Colonial Cup competition in which he played all games for the franchise.

It was not all rosy though when his abilities were overlooked which saw him miss selection for the Pacific Rugby Cup the same year.

The rugged playmaker has contributed a lot to rugby but he has widened his horizons to help in the development of other sports.

For now Fuli’s full time career is different, may be because he was born to be different.

He has painted a wonderful picture for all young people to emulate and that is no matter how hard the road to success might be, for the love of the sport we believe in, all things are possible if we believe in ourselves.

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