Unaisi Rauluni Determined To Make Fiji Proud At Netball World Cup

Unaisi Rauluni wants to make her country proud like her late dad Vesi who played for the team that won the Hong Kong Sevens title for three years in a row.
06 Jul 2019 16:52
Unaisi Rauluni Determined To Make Fiji Proud At Netball World Cup
Fijian Pearls captain Unaisi Rauluni. Photo: Grace Narayan

Following in her late father’s footsteps Vesito Rauluni, who was the former Fijian 7s captain, Fijian Pearls captain Unaisi Rauluni is determined to make Fiji proud at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England.

Unaisi comes from a sporting family with her uncles Taito, Peni, Meli and Vili Rauluni playing for the national rugby team and they were followed by her cousins Jacob, Mosese Rauluni and sevens maestro Waisale Serevi.

The 24 year-old ace goal shooter who hails from Qarani, Gau, started her netball career at 17 when she played for the Suva Netball Association and Fiji U21 as well.

“I feel excited and blessed to be given the opportunity to lead the national team for the first time,” Rauluni said

“My inspiration for the sport came from my late father who was the former captain of the national 7s side. They won three straight Hong Kong 7s titles and through his hardwork and determination for the team has pushed me to be like him.

“And Dad had always been there for me through the hardest time of my life and it would have a very proud and emotional moment for him to be alive and be able to see my achievements so far.”

Rauluni said it is an honor to lead the national team and she will do her utmost best as a player and a leader on the court.

“Leading the national team comes with a huge responsibility. When I was told by the management that I am going to lead the Fiji Pearls to the Netball World Cup, I was shocked and scared at the same time,” she said.

“But I am really excited as this will be the first time for me to lead the national side to the Netball World Cup.

“All eyes will be on us and I keep telling the girls that it is an honor to represent the country and we have to deliver our very best in every match and we also have to improve Fiji’s ranking.”

“Every girl has trained hard and we have set our target for the World Cup. At the end of the day we are representing Fiji and we want to end it with better ranking. Our aim is to beat Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa in the tournament, so we can move up the ladder,” she said.

Rauluni said despite having a lot of young and inexperienced players, they are confident about their chances and everyone is just excited to fly out to London and get the job done.

“We are ready and have prepared very well. We had friendly match against the Silver Ferns, New Zealand All Stars and New Zealand Men’s in the Cadbury Netball Series and those matches has surely boosted both our confidence and morale,’ she added.

“We looking forward to the World Cup and as the captain I had been encouraging the girls to take each game at a time and improve our ranking.

“Our preparation had been quiet intense for past one month where it was very positive for the girls as they were able to gel in together as a team before the competition.”

Lydia Panapasa

Fiji first participated at a World Cup in 1975 when netball’s quadrennial event was held in Auckland, New Zealand.

Known as the Fiji Pearls, the team qualified for Liverpool back in April 2018 winning every match but one (against Samoa) in the Regional Qualifier – Oceania.

The Pearls are coached by former Australia Diamond Vicki Wilson who alongside Liz Ellis holds the Australian record for the most World Cup appearances, both having played in four.

Liverpool will be Fiji’s ninth appearance at netball’s pinnacle event – can they climb any higher than sixth, their highest World Cup position to date?

Goal shooter Lydia Panapasa comes from a family line of elite sports people.

Her mother represented Fiji in athletics and basketball, her aunt was a formidable hockey player and her cousin represented Fiji at rugby union.

“I want to follow in my Mum’s, my aunt’s and my cousin’s footsteps,” she says.

Liverpool will be Panapasa’s first World Cup experience and she is focusing on the task in hand by spending two to three hours, six days a week training for the battle ahead.

Vocea: Like Mother, Like Daughter

Like mother like daughter, goal shooter Matila Vocea will follow in her mother’s footsteps when she makes her World Cup debut in Liverpool.

A former Fiji Pearls captain, Vocea’s mother Vasiti Setuata represented Fiji at three World Cups (1987, 1991 and 2003).  Vocea only stepped into the game aged 15, but four years later aged 19, her strong performance on the court has been enough to secure her place on the team bound for Liverpool.

When the goal shooter isn’t training, she likes to bake, make pizzas and is currently studying for a Bachelor of Science degree.

Fijian Pearls Squad: Laisani Waqa, Kaitlyin Fisher, Alisi Galo, Ema Mualevu, Lydia Panapasa, Unaisi Rauluni (captain), Kelera Nawai, Episake Kahatoka, Vakaoca Bolakoro, Asilika Sevutia (vice-captain), Aliti Toribau, Matila Vocea.   -Edited by Osea Bola


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