SPORTS

Women In Sports: Teen Ref Titilia Is No Quitter

Titilia Lawakeli never dreamt or planned to be a rugby referee. But the 19-year-old, Navatulevu, Cavaga in Solevu, Bua, beauty had grown to love her part time job for the
06 Mar 2021 10:56
Women In Sports: Teen Ref Titilia Is No Quitter
Referee Titilia Lawakeli during the Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s tournament at Orince Charles Park, Nadi, on February 27, 2021. Photo: Nawaka 7s

Titilia Lawakeli never dreamt or planned to be a rugby referee.

But the 19-year-old, Navatulevu, Cavaga in Solevu, Bua, beauty had grown to love her part time job for the past three years.

Lawakeli who shares maternal links to Nasoqo, Namosi, is a Year 13 student at Maharishi Sanatan College, Nadi.

She was one of the six female referees during last weekend’s Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s tournament.

Titilia was inspired by her father, Seru Lawakeli, who was also a former referee.

While following into her dad’s footsteps, she hopes to be better and aims to officiate in one of the Oceania tournaments.

She started off at the Milo Kaji Rugby Tournament in 2018.

Lawakeli had just completed her Level Two referee’s course.

“When I was young, I used to follow my father around, he was one of the referees in Fiji and he is now a referee coach,” she said.

“And when I was in Year 10, I asked him if I could join and he approved.

“In 2019, I started taking it further to secondary school’s Deans trophy competition in Sigatoka where I was also a touch judge.

“And coming into 2020, it was a big challenge for me, when I started to ref in the Skipper Cup challenge,” Lawakeli added.

Being a teenager, officiating in Fiji’s biggest rugby competition, was quite tough, especially when rugby is mostly considered as a male’s sport.

However, Lawakeli took the challenge head on.

She was a touch judge in the Nadi and Suva women’s rugby match before she took control of the oldies game between the two teams.

“And in the next tournament, they gave me the whistle to ref in one of the women’s matches in the Skipper Cup,” Lawakeli said.

“Being in this kind of situation, is a big challenge too, being a female to ref in a male dominated sport.

“I would urge women to take it up as a challenge for them and to move forward.

“Do not think that it is a man’s job.

“And also I want to encourage women that sports have the power to change lives and teach women, girls, to have that self-confidence and guts to move forward.

“Sport is one of the great drivers of gender equality.

“It also defies our gender as females, becoming one of the inspiring role models to young females to take up sports because it also shows that men and women are equal in many ways.”

Being able to participate in these tournaments was possible through her support system.

She acknowledged her father and fellow referees in the Nadi Rugby Referees Association.

“I started off with my dad’s guidance and then joined the association, and also with the help of Mr. Patrick and Isei Navugavuga who always pushed me. They helped me go through my courses.

“I always look up to Tevita Rokovereni, he is my role model and is always guiding me through and talking to me through everything.

“And thanks to the Nadi rugby referees, they are always there to push me through.

“My main goal is to be one of the first and best female referee and also to ref in the Oceania tournaments and also to be in the women’s refereee panels in the HSBC World Sevens Series.

Lawakeli is one of the 15 female referees in the Nadi association.

She hopes to finish her Year 13 studies and wants to join the Fiji Naval Division.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua 

Feedback: sereana.salalo@fijisun.com.fj



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