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Joy for Keleni’s ‘only boy’ Joeli

February 08
12:00 2010

image Written By : LAVENIA VUADREU. Patience and hard work paid off for Joeli Lutumailagi when he received the call from the Fiji Rugby Union on Sunday to take up arms and join the Digicel Fiji 7s team in the Las Vegas 7s tournament.
He had to ask the caller to repeat the message thinking he did not hear right the first time. Playing for Fiji was number one on his wish list but the Narata villager from the salad bowl of Fiji thought he would be second choice to Randall Kamea as a replacement to the traveling 12-member team.
He featured well for Nadroga in their Digicel Cup and the Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy challenge victories last season and seemingly achieved everything conceivable in a local player’s illustrious career. But there was one thing on his wish list he could not wait to tick off-the opportunity – to don the national jumper whether it be in 7s or XVs.
Lutumailagi will get that chance in the Las Vegas tournament this weekend as replacement to wing Waisele Beci. Beci was injured during the semifinal clash against England.
“I could not believe it,” said Lutumailagi. “I had just return from Sunday service when the call came in. It took a while for the news to sink in because I thought it would be Randall who would get the first pick.”
“It’s not that I underestimate myself, this was number one in my wish list. This is a dream come true not only for myself but for my family as well. I would like to thank God for this opportunity.”
The second youngest and only boy of a sibling of four, Lutumailagi was an average achiever academically but on the field of rugby, stood out as one of the best. Knowing their son’s potential and talent, proud parents Keleni Marama and Ape Naikata would push him to strive for rugby excellence.
Though it was not his fault for missing the selection in the final XVs team to the Europe November tour, the Pacific Rugby Cup and Pacific Nations Cup last year or missing out on 7s selection he would still get a good talking to from his parents.
“Being the only boy, it was up to me to bring honor to the family’s name. And what a joy it was and a proud moment for me when the call came through on Sunday. To see their faces light up after sharing with them the news was more that I could ask for. It said everything I wanted to hear them say.”
One hurdle conquered but Lutumailagi knows the fight is far from over. If he fails to perform it would be his parents he would have to answer to and that is a scenario he would not want to picture himself in.
“This sets up another challenge for me. To prove to the selectors and to Fiji that I deserve a chance to go.
And I have no doubt that my parents would want the best from me so this is for them as well. If there is someone I would like to impress it’s them and of course the nation, my team mates and Tani(Iliesa Tanivula).”
To the nation, the 24 year-old has asked for our continued support in thoughts and prayers as we look forward to another successful campaign in the land of the brave and the home of the free.
Fiji heads Pool B in the Las Vegas 7s ahead of South Africa, Russia, and Canada.
12-member squad: 1. Seremaia Burotu 2. Pio Tuwai 3. Watisoni Votu 4. Setefano Cakau 5. Apisai Nayabo 6. Emosi Vucago 7. Jiuta Lutumailagi 8. Niumaia Cakacaka 9. William Ryder 10. Osea Kolinisau 11. Joeli Lutumailagi 12. Josefa Bole

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