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Class Six dropout on world stage

September 26
10:44 2013

By VUNIWAQA BOLA-BARI

Ilisavani Jegesa only reached Class Six in school but today he is preparing with the Vodafone Fiji Bati team for the Rugby League World Cup in the United Kingdom next month.
Jegesa, of Rakiraki, Yale, Kadavu only started playing rugby league in 2011 with the City Storm before he joined the Nabua Broncos and it has been an on and off thing for the 24-years-old.
“I only reached Class Six at St Agnes Primary School and when Mum and Dad moved to Lautoka because Dad was posted there by the FEA (Fiji Electricity Authority), I wanted to stay back.
“So my grandfather, Ilaitia Lalai decided to look after me where I was brought up in a home full of boys with Nemani Taleimaitoga (Suva Rugby player), Manasa Tuidraki (Tailevu rugby player) and Jale and Jeke Lalai also now playing for Tailevu Rugby.
“For me Union was the game as my grandfather trained the Nabua Rugby team where I followed him to training until the day he bought me a pair of rugby boots to start playing for the Nabua Colts back in 2004,” Jegesa said.
But Jegesa stayed in the reserves for three years while with Nabua and his grandfather took time out to teach him more on the fullback’s position and his kicking game before he died.
Yesterday he revealed that his switch to the more physical game of rugby league only came about when he was influenced by former Fiji Bati rep, Nemani Suguturaga.
Suguturaga now plying his trade in Australia pushed Jegesa to switch and the youngster then, tried it out.
In 2008, he watched as Nemani’s name was called out to be part of the Fiji Bati team to the 2008 RLWC in Australia.
“I started training and playing League with my peers but training seemed so much tougher than Union, but Nemani kept telling me to keep my patience.
“For a while I left playing and started travelling around Fiji with the Life and Abundant ministry sharing the gospel, but I continued training.
“When the opportunity arose for the PNG trip for the Bati in 2010, I tried coming back into the game but missed out and I lost hope then came an offer to play with the Nabua 7s team in Australia, so I switched again to Union,” Jegesa said.
But like every mother who always has faith in her child no matter what the situation is Jegesa’s mum Komera Waqanivavalagi kept telling her son to watch out for bigger things in his life.
Coming from a family of seven siblings, Jegesa’s aim to make the RLWC team started in the last two years and the only test he has ever had was the trials for the Fiji Residents and the Battle of the Bati.
“I just recovered from an injury where the doctor’s advised me to rest for a month and I never thought I would get a chance to make the Fiji Residents, let alone the final Fiji Bati team for RLWC,” Jegesa said.
He said the injury saw a blood clot in his nose caused by sinus which happened after a clash against the Nadera Panthers, it was in another game against the Namuaniwaqa Eagles that saw blood ooze out from his nose.
This saw the doctor’s giving him time to rest.
“But making the team was something I couldn’t stop thanking God on, we had a lot of experienced players in the team and I kept telling myself that I will make the final team.
“When my name was called out after the trials, I never realised until a while that I was in the team for the World Cup.
“The only thing coach Rabele told me was, your patience has paid off, you were determined and played well under pressure but I guess it was the Man upstairs that allowed me to do all that because that trial was the toughest and the amount of spectators didn’t help,” Jegesa said.
Yesterday as the team went to lodge their visa at the British High Commission; Jegesa only wished his grandfather Lalai was still alive to see him.
“It was his teaching and pushing us to achieve when Jeke made the U20 national side that made me keep the faith,” he added.
Jegesa has maternal ties to Naivilaca in Rewa and is one of the only two local players named in the Bati side for this year’s RLWC.

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