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Uluinayau Attributes Success To Family

The Salia, Nayau, Lau, native, who shares maternal links to Nukui, Rewa, left her family in New Zealand for her rugby career.
09 Feb 2021 09:16
Uluinayau Attributes Success To Family
Mt Masada captain, Rejieli Uluinayau during one of the Fijiana 7s training session in Suva earlier this year. Photo: FRU Media

Rejieli Sau Uluinayau, is living her dream in Fiji.

The Salia, Nayau, Lau, native, who shares maternal links to Nukui, Rewa, left her family in New Zealand for her rugby career.

It was not an easy journey for the 28-year-old.

Born and growing up in Vatuwaqa, Suva, the ex-Stella Maris Primary School student had moved with her family to New Zealand when she was 13; there she enrolled at the Wellington East Secondary School.

She was a reliever/ stock coordinator for Bed Bath & Beyond in Wellington.

And now the sevens halfback is a contracted player for Fijiana 7s preparing for the Tokyo Olympics in July and also part of the Fijiana XVs training squad for the World Cup in New Zealand.

And she aims to represent Fiji in both the Olympics and World Cup.

The women’s World Cup starts on September 18, six weeks after the Tokyo Olympic Games which is from July 23 to August 8.

“A big challenge in my life is definitely leaving my family and work in New Zealand to pursue my dreams and goals here in Fiji,” she said.

“Sometimes I do get home sick but then I always remind myself that I’m here for a good reason and that I need to achieve my goals in order for my stay to be meaningful.

“My plans and goals for the future are the upcoming 2021 Olympics in Japan and also the 2021 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand,” Uluinayau added.

She played for the Oriental Women’s Rugby Club as well as Wellington Pride women’s team in the provincial competition.

Uluinayau is now with the local Striders Women’s Rugby Club.

She captained the Mount Masada team to victory during the Fiji Rugby Union’s Super 7s Series at Lawaqa Park, Sigatoka, last month.

Childhood

Growing up in Fiji was one of her best memories.

“Childhood in Fiji was great! I was really sporty from a young age. I played athletics, netball and whatever that had physical activities involved in it,” she said..

“I loved getting out and being fit and healthy in general. Actually I started playing rugby with my cousins and brother at our backyard in Vatuwaqa when I was very young.

“I started playing rugby in secondary school in Wellington at the age of 15,” Uluinayau said.

Inspiration

She added: “What inspired me to play rugby was trying something different. Rugby was a male dominated sport back in my childhood days and I always wanted to be one of the first females to play this sport and show the world that females can also play rugby.

“I would never forget playing rugby when I was small with my cousin brothers.

“And in school my mother, Merewai Uluinayau, would always say –“If only I was boy, Jeli would definitely be in a national team or be a great rugby player.”

“So that made me push myself and prove not only to my family but to the public that you don’t have to be a boy to be great at rugby, you can be a girl and be great at it too.”

Uluinayau is the first cousin of former national rep Alfred Uluinayau, who was also an inspiration to her.

“Someone I looked up too when I was young was definitely my cousin Alfred Uluinayau – to me he was one of the best fullbacks in Fiji and I would always watch his games and learn from him.

“And not forgetting Waisale Serevi and William Ryder who were both a big inspiration in my 7’s rugby career too.”

Lessons and Advice

Playing rugby was not only a dream for Uluinayau, the sport has taught her so much more.

“What I love about rugby the most is definitely starting with a team but becoming a family at the end of it.

“Different backgrounds and lifestyles working together to become one. It is also about meeting new people and sharing life experiences in the process of my career,” she said.

Uluinayau debuted for Fijiana 7s in 2015 for the Brazil 7s in the HSBC Series and for the Fijiana XVs in 2016 where they won the Pacific World Cup qualifier against PNG at ANZ Stadium, Suva.

Rugby has taken her to various counties including Brazil, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

She advises young girls who would like to pursue a rugby career in future is to work hard towards their goals.

“To young girls out there, use every opportunity that you get because it only comes once. Work hard for it. Believe in the process and the rewards will come.”

Uluinayau added: “And to my family back in New Zealand if you are reading this; I miss you guys so much, love and kisses to you all especially my queen (Mum) and my little princess Adaline (niece).”

Uluinayau and 15 other Fijiana 7s players are also part of the XVs training squad.

These players include Rusila Nagasau, Rajieli Daveua, Sesenieli Donu, Vani Buleki, Lavenia Tinai, Ema Adivitaloga, Viniana Riwai, Lavena Cavuru, Roela Radiniyavuna, Ana Naimasi, Aloesi Nakoci and Akanisi Sokoiwasa.

Edited by Karalaini Waqanidrola

Feedback: sereana.salalo@fijisun.com.fj



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