Kunatuba reminisces of competition days

Litia Naiqato of Fiji Airways Fijiana team in heavy traffic against Australia during the 2018 Oceania Rugby Championship semi final at ANZ Stadium over the weekend, Picture: RAMA

TUVALU men’s rugby coach and former Fijiana 7s coach Elenoa Kunatuba recalls when in her playing days how her team would be jeered at during rugby matches.

“They were different times” said Kunatuba.

“Rugby was Fiji’s sport, but it was very disheartening to see how the acceptation was different to men and women although we both played the sport we love.” Kunatuba of Semo in Nadroga, began her rugby career with the QVSOB Women’s Rugby Club.

“There were not many women’s rugby clubs back then and even fewer women players.”

Although the sport was developing, the mood changed when game day came and she ran on to the pitch with her teammates.

“People in the crowd would start to make comments and pass remarks regarding us women, and we had not even ran onto the rugby pitch yet.”

“But it didn’t stop there.

“Even when we are playing, the jeers and comments did not stop. In fact it got worse.”

Kunatuba said insults and abuse were hurled at them when they played and even some comments were in the context of being sexual harassments.

“Some of our players would cry after the game, and even if we did win, it put a different feel on things, but we never stopped. “But those were different times and I am glad and sometimes awed at how things have changed.”

Kunatuba’s love for rugby drove her to look for qualificatons, so she would continue to be part of the game she loves even after retiring from playing. “I started attending coaching workshops and even got my certificate that allowed me to coach.”

Kunatuba is a certified coach. She has a World Rugby Level 3 Coaching Certificate. She is the only woman in Fiji to be qualified at that level in the sport. “I try to spread the knowledge of rugby to all women.”

Kunatuba believes there is still room for improvement, and that improvement must begin at the management level of any team.

“Players are only as good as what their coaches teach them.

“How can players perform properly if the coaches themselves do not know what they are doing?”

Kunatuba believes that the proper arming of coaches with qualifications can help improve women’s rugby in Fiji and the Pacifc to heights that we can only dream of.

“We are opening the bottle on women’s rugby right now and the best is yet to come.”

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