Sporting all-rounder puts rugby first

Written By : STEVE HEPBURN . He is a national basketballer, volleyballer and archer, sometimes netballer, and, most importantly, rugby player. Qaraniqio, 23 is looking to make an impact in
15 Aug 2008 12:00

image Written By : STEVE HEPBURN . He is a national basketballer, volleyballer and archer, sometimes netballer, and, most importantly, rugby player.
Qaraniqio, 23 is looking to make an impact in the Otago jersey this season, but it has been a long and winding road to the blue and gold for the Fijian.
A blindside flanker for the Otago side, Qaraniqio was spotted in 2005 by former Otago director of rugby Tony Gilbert when playing in Suva.
Gilbert asked Qaraniqio if he wanted to play rugby in Dunedin. But it was not an easy decision for him as he was into his second semester at the University of South Pacific in Suva, studying economics and public administration.
“My parents were not too happy.
“For me, coming here I had to achieve something. I sacrificed my studies for rugby and I had to prove to them I have achieved something,” he said.
“So they can see by making the squad I am getting somewhere.”
His family follow his career intently and are able to watch his matches live on television.
He left the field against Canterbury with a nasty eye injury last Saturday. His brother rang him straight after the game, saying his mother was nearly in tears, seeing her boy with blood flowing near his eye. Qaraniqio was one of five players who came to Otago from Fiji in 2005, but said he was the only one still here, with all the others having returned home. The second-youngest of six brothers who have all played representative rugby in Fiji, Qaraniqio was brought up in a small village on the Coral Coast on the western side of the main island, Viti Levu.
He said life in the university hostel was different from his village, and moving to a university-orientated city such as Dunedin was different again, with its emphasis on socialising.
“I’ve managed to cope with it. But I do not drink. I used to sneak a bit in high school without my parents knowing. But it was something that has driven me in my rugby career, staying away from alcohol.
“It was a big test for me but I’ve managed to keep away from it. It is a religious thing but it is a personal thing as well. I’ve had the willpower and been strong enough to stay away from it.”
He is keen to return to university one day, but said at the moment it was too hard to combine with rugby and work.
He worked at the Silverstream meat works this season. Qaraniqio – it is pronounced with the “g” sound instead of the “q” – said it was cold arriving in the middle of winter, but he had adjusted to the climate.
He is not a one-trick pony on the sports field.
He has represented his country at basketball, volleyball and also competed in archery at the Oceania Games in the Cook Islands.
“They came along to our school once in the fourth form and I had a go. It is something totally different and I got picked for the national squad.
“I just love playing sport, just love being involved.”
He played a few games this year for the men’s premier netball side in the Dunedin premier grade, and said he enjoyed it.
“But I only played when rugby allowed me to. I told them I’d help out but it couldn’t get in the way of rugby.”
Qaraniqio played for North Otago in 2006 and four games last year, before being brought back for the end of the season for Otago.
He has started Otago’s first two games and hopes to play against Northland at Carisbrook on Friday night. At 1.94m tall and weighing in at 110kg, he felt he was not big enough for a lock, and wanted to concentrate on blindside.
“I just want to keep improving, week by week. I need to work on the tackle ball area. If I can be stronger there that would help. All I can do is react to what is in front of me.”

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