Feature | SPORTS

Referee, Graduate, Survivor

Vuli is one of Fiji’s first female referees and has officiated in many rugby tournaments for the past decade.
11 Jan 2020 14:50
Referee, Graduate, Survivor
Kuini Vuli (left) with a fellow referee during the 2013 Sevens Rugby World Cup in Russia

The journey to becoming one of the top female referees in Fiji was not an easy one for Kuini Vuli.

Vuli is one of Fiji’s first female referees and has officiated in many rugby tournaments for the past decade.

The Yadrana, Lakeba, Lau native is no stranger to rugby.

In fact, the 38-year old has been a player and enjoys the game as much as her older brother Sunia Koto, who was a former Fiji Airways Flying Fijians hooker.

Vuli felt that she had another way to contribute to rugby as far as women are concerned.

Referee career

She began her refereeing career in 2009 controlling club games in Suva.

“Women rugby was not developing as fast as it is today so I saw an opportunity to be a referee,” she said

“It was a reality, happening every week and you get to be right in the middle of it.”

But in 2016, Vuli was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, and so she decided to take a break from refereeing.

“I had just been identified as an upcoming referee from the South Island, New Zealand and was getting ready to break it to the top, but then I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer,” she said.

“I dropped everything and gave myself completely to my treatment physically, mentally, spiritually and socially.”

Vuli said it was her passion in the developing the sport that led her to continue on with what she loved to do.

With the help from her parents, Vuli was able to complete her Bachelor of Arts and her Post Graduate Diploma in Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology at the University of the South Pacific.

She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Sociology.

Kuni Vuli after graduating from the University of the South Pacific in 2007

Kuni Vuli after graduating from the University of the South Pacific in 2007

“I try to learn and pick the positives from anyone and anything around me,” she said.

Lessons

“There is a lesson in everything and everyone and I just take it as I go and I consider everyday is a pinnacle moment in my life.”

Psychologically, she attributes her success to her aunt, Laite.

“In one of her prayer session with Mum recited a lesson that says something along the line of’ God says try me, challenge me, see what I am capable off”,” Vuli shares.

“I took the challenge that day and have never looked back and that was more than 10 years ago.”

Vuli believes the main challenge women face when it comes to refereeing is fitness and game time.

“The challenge of women stepping up to be able to referee men’s games especially now since the fitness requirement keeps getting higher,” she added.

“However, now with more women games, the fitness level is now more specific to women fitness level.

“So anyone aiming to ref at higher level must think of herself as an elite athlete and train as such.

“Game time is crucial as more game time brings with it game experience which is important if you want to develop technically and tactically as a referee.

Women’s refereeing

“The issue here is that currently women referees are usually just appointed to women games and so just wait for the main season to begin.”

She added Fiji Rugby Union referee manager was working hard on finding a balance on this matter and that women referee that come up at the higher level get as much game time as possible.

“Our manager is putting me in a lot of mentor/ educator/referee roles working with interested women referees and guiding the ones already in control,” Vuli added.

“It’s really interesting and challenging and we are hoping to get more girls in because with the new women competitions we are still short of numbers.

Vuli is encouraging other women to take refereeing

“Being a referee is an awesome venture. If you like to be challenged, give refereeing a shot. It challenges you mentally, physically, tactically, technically and spiritually.”

Kuini Vuli (left) with her fellow referees during the 2019 Oceania Women's Rugby Qualifier.

Kuini Vuli (left) with her fellow referees during the 2019 Oceania Women’s Rugby Qualifier.

Edited by Osea Bola

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