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‘Amazing Six Months’

It is rare that people get their dreams answered in a span of six months. But for Fijian Pearls goalkeeper, Episake Kahatoka Gaunavinaka, this has been her big year. The
21 Jul 2015 12:51
‘Amazing Six Months’
Some Fijian Pearls with their family members before departing Suva yesterday for New Zealand. Photo: Paulini Ratulailai

It is rare that people get their dreams answered in a span of six months.

But for Fijian Pearls goalkeeper, Episake Kahatoka Gaunavinaka, this has been her big year.

The 19-year-old from Batiri Village in Sigatoka is the youngest member of the Fijian Pearls.

She is a student of the University of the South Pacific and is among players who line-up to meet the second best team in the world – New Zealand’s Silver Ferns.

“This year has been unexpected for me. At the same time it has been such a huge achievement,” Kahatoka said.

“If someone said a year ago that I would finish high school and gone into playing for the Fijian Pearls against the Silver Ferns and at the Pacific Games, I would not have believed it.”

She is the youngest and the second tallest Fijian Pearl.

“The experience has been incredible being with the players, coaches and management because I have truly learned a lot in the last six months,” she said.

“I’ve not only grown as a player, but as a person. I started playing netball at the age of 10 and I honestly did not expect to be one day playing for the Fijian Pearls.

“The other thing I still cannot believe is playing alongside my role models; Matila Waqanidrola and Mere Neiliko. They have been amazing and had constantly been teaching me new things.

“Being in a team with experienced players has been a real eye-opener. Working with coach Kate Carpenter is something different because she is always coming up with new ideas and new techniques for us to learn and I had to really adapt myself to that.

“My experience in PNG at the Pacific Games was a learning curve because the atmosphere was different. It was the first time to be intimidated by the crowd, but it pushed me to work hard under pressure.”

Kahatoka said she was shocked when she was approached by Carpenter at the National Super League (NSL) trials.

“The funny thing is, when I tried out for the trials, it was only for fun,” she said laughing.

“Kate and Alevina Waqa were present at the trials and I knew they were there, so I went about doing my own thing.

“I just knew that Judy Kumar called me to attend the trials and I had to get through it. But when Kate approached me and asked me for my contact details, I really got the shock of my life.

“Even though it was only an invite to test out the environment of being with the Fijian Pearls, it was a huge thing for me.”

Kahatoka’s debut for the Fijian Pearls in January against the Silver Ferns and playing them again for the second time will give her the chance to improve.

She said it was hard to be away from home.

“My parents divorced when I was six months old.

“It is hard to feel that I am away from them. I know they are only a phone call away, but it’s nothing compared to being physically with them,” she said.

“I really miss them. I am the youngest and I have an older brother, Inia Tawalu, but the best thing about it is, they have still been supportive no matter what.”

Kahatoka is studying Foundation in English and Maths at the University of the South Pacific.

“I have other dreams and I plan on being a teacher which is something I am working towards. My family comes from a teaching background, so this is something I have always wanted.

“For me balancing school and sports has not been that hard for me because the important thing is time management,” she said.

Kahatoka is adamant on continuing her studies while playing netball and hopes to one day in the future get a contract to play the sport she loves overseas.

Feedback: justine.mannan@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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