Eleina McDonald Finds Drive In Sports

It’s very encouraging to see wom­en in Fiji that is taking the lead in so many levels and that’s some­thing Australia and New Zealand have not achieved yet.
09 Mar 2019 16:04
Eleina McDonald Finds Drive In Sports
Eleina McDonald in action during a hockey tournament in Suva.

From being a sports journalist to actually representing Fiji in various sports at national level, Eleina McDonald, is the best inspiration for most women in­volved in sports today.

McDonald, who is the operations manager at the Fiji Sports Council, has played an integral part in the introduction of women’s rugby in the country and how it has devel­oped over the years.

And apart from being commit­ted to her professional life, she is now heavily involved in promoting women in sports in the region. She shares with SUNsports her expe­riences, challenges and achieve­ments.

1. SUNSports: What’s your current posi­tion? How long have you been in this position? Can you give me a brief overview of what it is you do in your work?

McDONALD: I’m the current oper­ations manager for the Fiji Sports Council and I have been also in­volved with sales and marketing since 2014.

2.SUNSports: What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or pas­sionate about? What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work? Not so much the goals that are in your job description, but the goals you hold personally?

McDONALD: Well. My biggest pas­sion is sports. And basically every job that I have been doing through­out the years has always been around sports.

I first started off as a sports jour­nalist at the Teivovo Magazine and spent around eight years with them. Moving forward from that, I picked up different skills and was able to multi-task with a whole lot of different assets. From there I went into the mainstream media and joined the Fiji SUN for six months and then later I moved to the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

Then I moved to the Fiji Sports Council, so with my passion in sports I have congregated myself with it and that is my biggest drive all the way through I have taken sports whether at socially and na­tional level so it has worked for me hand in hand for me. Being an operations manager for Fiji Sports Council has been very interesting especially working as venue man­agers.

Like previously it was all about writing stories and promoting mi­nor sports. Now with Sports Coun­cil it has become more interesting and fun as we get to be more inter­active with the national sporting bodies so we are assisting them from the venue arrangement per­spective as well as helping them as stakeholders in hosting events and bringing in more international events. It’s a nice place to be right now.

Personal Goals

My goal ultimately from a career perspective of being an operations manager is to really make an im­pact like to play a larger role with­in the sport.

With other hats on I’m trying to balance my professional life to. Other sports that I have been hugely involved are basketball and hockey which I have sort of got into in the last six months so now I am more into involved in the pro­motion of women in sports kind of thing.

And in a bigger scale I want to be a bit more prominent within the sporting fraternity especially with everything that I have learnt from an athlete’s perspective.

I feel that I have a lot of network right now and I feel I can contrib­ute more to sports at different lev­els. So through my involvement with stakeholders it will enable me to help with sports that needs de­velopment and I don’t mind doing it voluntary.

I had been getting a few enquiries from Basketball Fiji where I have started coaching Yat Sen Second­ary School students.

As you might have been noticed that most of these sports are de­clining so we the formers reps are trying revive them slowly.

It feels really nice to know that we play a little role in making a change. However, my professional sideline goal is to get more involved at operational level for teams espe­cially with franchise teams which are commercially driven and be able to manage a professional team overseas even it overlaps with me­dia and communications.

3. SUNSports: What were you doing previ­ously? Give me a brief on your sport­ing career.

McDONALD: I first played basket­ball when I was just 15. I then later transitioned from basketball to rugby and that was only because I was only involved in Teivovo Maga­zine where we had a page allocated for women’s rugby.

And because we were writing about it and learning about the struggles that women’s rugby faced so we decided to have team of 21 girls. And so we used the magazine to promote it.

But we had the team for fun and later I made the Fiji women 7s team to play in Hong Kong. So this 7s team developed into 15s and later we went on for the 10s competition. And simultaneously we were writ­ing about the not so many support for women’s rugby. We pushed in for funds for women’s rugby and with Fiji Rugby Union we worked hand in hand as they assisted us with that aspect.

And I still remember it was back in 2007 when the first 15s women national team was formed and I played in that team. We played our first match against Sternmsdt Uni­versity and then later I moved to competing in the first Tri-Nations Cup against Tonga. And straight after that 15s competition it started to die a slow death just because all decided to move to the various field of our professional life.

With the support of FRU we pushed for a national 7s women’s team so it was very inconsistent. So, early 2000 we pushed for a wom­en’s rep at the AGM to have a wom­en’s rugby body established which still not has not happened. And a few years later FRU affiliated a Fiji­ana body so that was made possible through our initiatives.

I also played hockey at national level.

4. SUNSports: Now if we can, I’d like to go way back for a little while. Where did you grow up? Countries that you have been to doing work and what was that like?

McDONALD: I grew up in Suva. My dad is Tongan and my mom is a ‘kailoma’. And whenever I am being asked about my originality I talk about my maternal side and say that I am from Savusavu be­cause that’s where she comes from.

And I had not met my dad until I was 19 so I come from a family of just my grandparents, my brother and mother.

I attended primary and second­ary school at Yat Sen Secondary School. And one thing that I always admired was athletes involved in individual sport for instance ath­letics.

Well. Looking at the countries that I have visited through my in­volvement in sports would be Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zea­land, Tonga and Samoa.


Eleina McDonald (second from left) also represented Fiji in basketball.

Eleina McDonald (second from left) also represented Fiji in basketball.

5. SUNSports: Did you have any key men­tors or people who deeply influ­enced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?

McDONALD: When I was a kid Maryanne Johns was sort of a sports icon for me but apart from that locally looking at the status that I am involved in right now is Cathy Wong.

Because when I was 15 she was my physiotherapist all the way through and we are very close fam­ily friend. I look up to her because through her profession she has achieved a massive achievement in sports.

Despite playing hockey at one stage she somehow manages to let us know about the pinnacle of sports and she had always been their advising me on a professional level. And not forgetting all the dif­ferent coaches I had in any sport I played.

6. SUNSports: Did you have any life-changing experiences and challeng­es that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today? Tell me about them.

McDONALD: The most memorable life-changing experience would be that when I had experienced this injury back in 2011 which had put a stop to me playing national that was sort of a reality check for me. So, because it was a very bad inju­ry I was told that it was the end of my sporting career.

So I had to decide what I needed to do other than sports and with the series of injuries that came along the way literally made me realiSs what I can do apart from just par­ticipating in sports.

After my rehabilitation period I really made a vast improvement on coming out from injury and mak­ing my mind into taking sports socially.

Also, another thing to highlight is that athletes back in our days were not strictly trained compared to the way it is done now.

7. SUNSports: As an active woman in­volved in sports previously and now, how do you see or analyze the role of women in sports specifically in Fiji and how important is it to encourage more woman taking up roles in vari­ous sporting federations?

McDONALD: Women in sports have grown in its leaps and down and I reckon that Fiji is taking a massive step forward in what we have achieved through the likes of Cathy Wong and Della Shaw- Elder.

And if you look at Cathy’s achieve­ment she is at the World Rugby board and have attained herself an Olympic order while Della on the hand is the first qualified technical official woman in the Oceania and the only female representative at the Commonwealth board.

It’s very encouraging to see wom­en in Fiji that is taking the lead in so many levels and that’s some­thing Australia and New Zealand have not achieved yet. We have a lot of sport in Fiji.

Edited by Osea Bola


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