Alfred Vakacokovanua - Tamata Levu
04 July, 2011
|Alfred Vakacokovanua - the rugby coach. |
|Alfred Vakacokovanua - the soldier. |
In 1998 Alfred Vakacokovanua arrived in the UK as a trombone player. He joined the Army and became a corner stone of British Army rugby. Stranger things have happened !
As a No8 he was awarded twelve caps playing for the Army at Twickenham. More importantly he played a vital role in the British Army producing the top Sevens team in Europe. In 2000 the British Army beat England three times in the same afternoon ! The team then went on to win the professional Middlesex Sevens in 2001 and 2004.
Born in Nausori, Alfred was educated at Nabitu Primary and Nasinu School. He joined the Salvation Army rugby club and the Fiji Army before being selected for Suva Province.
Quickly he was elevated to the Fiji Sevens squad and in 1997 played for his country in both Samoa and New Zealand alongside the likes of Wasaile Serevi and Jope Tuikabe. It was therefore no surprise that when he arrived in London he had such a great understanding of the Sevens game.
Some ten years later Alfred has turned his experience and wide understanding of the game to coaching. He is now Head Coach to the highly successful British Army 7s team. His past achievements and experience have given him great stature but, more importantly, he has recognised the recent developments that have reshaped the abbreviated game. He is a born teacher and can convey to his players the need to use space wisely, gain and retain possession. He ensures his people develop their personal skills and maintain fitness sufficient for a 14 minute battle
Currently in Alfred’s team are the Fiji stars and friends Apo Satala and Jack Prasad. Apo played for Fiji in the 2011 IRB Sevens in Edinburgh and Jack represented his country in the same IRB event last year. Returning to fitness is England 7s international Isoa Damudamu so watch that space for a Fiji led performance at the 2011 Middlesex 7s at Twickenham on 9th July.
Alfred reckons a name to look out for is No8 Iferemei Boladau from Suva who is making big waves on the England sevens circuit.
Any difficulties ? Well, when Alfred needs to make a point to make with force he returns to the Fijian language. The ‘vavalagi’ know they are getting a rollicking-- but don’t know why !
In addition to his Army successes at Twickenham Alfred played for the Combined Services many times against the illustrious Barbarians. He was rewarded for a series of fine performances by being chosen to represent a winning Baa-Baas side in the 2003 Mobbs Memorial match at Northampton. Playing at No8 Alfred scored two superb tries. He then went on to tour Portugal with ‘the Club’.
Alfred is an infantry soldier and maintains a high level of personal fitness. Even at age 39 he still plays a mean game of XVs for the Army Masters--the over 35s.
As Corporal Vakacokovanua, of the Scots Guards, Alfred is currently training junior soldiers in the rigours of Army battle skills and tactics. Throughout his Regiment he is known as ‘Alfie’ on the basis that it is impossible for an Englishman to say Vakacokovanua in a hurry ! He has experienced operational service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Should you travel to London you may even see him guarding the Queen at Buckingham Palace !
Alfred lives in Surrey, England with his wife Mari who comes from Kalokolevu and their two daughters Rosai and Alice who attend the Brookwood School. His home is always open to friends and he regularly conducts prayer meetings in the front room. He has a large circle of friends both from Fiji and the UK
In 1998 Fiji’s loss of a trombone player was the British Army’s rugby gain. Alfred Vakacokovanua has, as a soldier, rugby player and coach, been a fine Ambassador for his country and the Fijian style of rugby. Big engine, big heart -- always ‘Tamata Levu’. Story by Roger Thompson.