Many marvel at the gutsy performance of Vodafone Fijian men’s rugby sevens halfback Seremaia Tuwai. Although he is smaller in size, Jerry as he is fondly known to his fans is totally a different person altogether when in the rugby field.
His ability to read the game, contest for the ball on the ground, his wicked footsteps that wrong foot his opponents and being able to take down men twice his size speaks volume of his courageous acts. But this is nothing new to the villagers of Buca in Cakaudrove- where Jerry hails from.
Turaga na Tui Kama, Ratu Seru Taqali said this is what they expected of him.
Ratu Seru said, it is in Jerry’s blood.
“Jerry comes from a long line of traditional warriors,” he said.
“Their gold medal win at the Rio Olympic Games was evident that this trait still survives.”
In fact, in the field of rugby Jerry is continuing the tradition that was left behind by his grandfathers and former rugby greats, Josefa Rauto, Tiko Bucaonadi and Fabiano Vakadranu.
Rauto was a national rugby legend. He played prop and hooker and during his time was one of the national rugby team’s top goal kickers. In 1976, Rauto was a member of the national rugby sevens team that won the Hong Kong 7s for the first time. The following year he was part of the national rugby team that tamed the British Lions 25-21 at the old Buckhurst Park in Suva.
Rauto was also one of the founding players of the Rewa Rugby Union which today is known as Tailevu Rugby Union. Through his guidance with the RRU he mentored rugby sevens maestro Waisale Serevi who was only 17 when he played his first provincial rugby match.
Bucaonadi who ended his rugby career in Australia, first made the headlines when he was crowned Mr Fiji in the bodybuilding contest.
In 1993 he was roped into rugby by former national rugby coach, the late Ratu Inoke Tabualevu. He used Bucaonadi as his first-choice prop when the Fijians smashed Queensland 48-24 and New South Wales 33-19 at the National Stadium, Suva.
But on Thursday, all villages and settlements leading up to Buca took to the road to welcome Tuwai. There was an air of excitement as the people celebrated the arrival of their sporting hero.
The chant “Go Jerry Go” was heard from every corner as police provided escort. Even women relatives from nearby villages stopped the vehicle carrying Tuwai and his family and invited him to go fishing with them. There were laughter and numerous exchange of jokes.
Tuwai’s mum Seruwaia Vualiku was in tears as she stood by the procession with her husband.
“I have only heard about this kind of welcome and to witness it for the first time and for it to be accorded to my son is such an honour,” she said.
“I would like to thank the people of Buca, Natewa and Cakaudrove as a whole for a welcome that is so great.”