Rugby plays a major role in transforming the lives of our local players giving them a chance to improve their livelihood and lifting their standard in and off the field of play.
Namosi rugby team loose head prop Venasio Kunabuli is a good example of the changes brought into his life through rugby.
The 31-year- old Votua lad from Nadroga left high school in 2008, at Nasikawa Vision College in the Coral Coast and stayed in the village as a farmer and a fisherman but he used his free time to train with his village boys for club games at Lawaqa Park.
These took him three years before he joined the Nadroga and the provincial Under-21 side and played as an open side flanker. But then his interest was still in fishing and farming however in 2015, Kunabuli made one more attempt to play for the Nadroga senior team and he was successful plus was included into the extended squad.
After a year’s break he returned to play for Nadroga team and was part of side which defended the Skipper Cup.
With his commitment and dedication to rugby he was roped in by Fijian Drua head coach Senirusi Seruvakula in 2017 where he donned the number 14 jersey and played a few games for the Drua in Australia’s National Rugby Championship.
However, lack of focus and inconsistency saw the young lad back in the village, but that did not deter his interest from rugby as he had to start from the beginning to fight his way up to becoming a better player and rejoin the Drua team and look for a contract overseas.
Kunabuli described those moments when he was dropped out from the Drua team, he regretted some decisions he made but promised himself to fight his way back to the to his top form.
In 2018, another opportunity approached him and he joined the Navosa rugby team that got promoted into the Skipper Cup competition.
It was when his prayers were answered when he was recruited into the Fiji Correction Services.
During a chat with Kunabuli a few year’s ago he said, “I’m grateful to be recruited in the FCS because I now have a family and if I can’t find a contract overseas, I have a job from which I can support my family.
Through all the years of his struggle and trying to put food on the table for his family, the Nadroga native vowed to direct his focus to his work and rugby because it brought him to where he is now.
“God has a plan for us and he definitely had a plan for me and I thank him for giving me a chance to prove myself through rugby and being able to support my family,” he said.
Focusing on trying to get into the Namosi team, Kunabuli couldn’t get the opportunity to don his number 12 and number 11 jersey, as younger players had stamped their mark in the Namosi backline team and have proven their worth in the Skipper Provincial Cup.
Since then, the Corrections officer has been playing for the Fire-Wardens team in the Suva club games until he was given another chance to play in the Skipper Provincial Cup this year as a front rower.
Without hesitation, Kunabuli accepted the challenge and has featured in both their games so far.
Kunabuli’s cousin and former Nadroga loose head prop Tevita Dikedike said Venasio has the built and the caliber of becoming a national rep as a front rower if he puts his mind into it.
“Look at the Flying Fijian front rowers, Peni Ravai and Mesulame Dolokoto, they both played backline in high school rugby and club games but now they are well contracted in overseas as front rowers and I believe, Kunabuli can reach that level only if he commits himself to training,” said Dikedike.
Kunabuli was part of the Namosi team that defeated Tailevu in the first round and lost to Nadroga last week at home.
Kunabuli’s father passed away last year and he is supporting his mum and his younger siblings plus is married with two kids.