Secret weapon – ‘Put God first and do the little things right’

Manasa Mataele with his parents and family members at Raiwai in Suva on Sunday. Picture: RAMA

Flying Fijians squad member Manasa Mataele has a tough task, ahead of the game against Tonga at the ANZ Stadium this Saturday.

He will have to edge out some of the best in the business – Olympic gold medalists Josua Tuisova and Jiuta Wainiqolo, and the rampaging Swire Shipping Fijian Drua winger Vinaya “The Bossman” Habosi – for the chance to run onto the turf.

“It was only the three of us in camp this week as Tuisova is yet to join us and we know we will have to fight for our positions,” the 25-year-old said.

“I had a chat with Wainiqolo and Habosi and we agreed that whoever gets the all-green from coach Cotter to start will have our full support.”

If he does get the nod, the Vanuavatu, Lau, rugger will not run out alone. Apart from having his team-mates beside him and the support of family members, he will be on the field with his uncle and former All Black Setareki Tamanivalu.

“We spoke before joining camp and I am excited to share the field with him, especially getting this opportunity to represent our country.

“We played together for Taranaki and the Crusaders, but to share the field with him and playing at home for our nation, is really something special. I cannot wait to share that moment with him.”

This year’s Pacific Nations Cup will be a tough one to call with all four sides stacked with former internationals and it is anyone’s game at the moment. Mataele said the Flying Fijians were ready to face some of the world’s best rugby players.

“Preparations have been good so far. The players know how big of a challenge these three matches are and we are ready to give these teams a good challenge.

“We are focusing on getting our individual roles better because it will contribute towards the team’s performance. We know the calibre of the players who are in these teams and we will try and look for ways to counter their attacks.

“At the start of camp, coach Cotter uttered inspirational words adding that the success of the team would depend on us individually.

“He told us we would reap whatever we sow in our preparation.

“If we do not put in the effort and work hard, it will reflect in our game and it is something he reiterates to us daily during training.”

The Western Force winger grew up idolising wingers Joe Rokocoko and former Flying Fijian Rupeni Caucaunibuca.

Mataele urges youngsters to always be patient.

“I grew up imitating the way these two players play and I incorporated it into my game.

“My message to young ruggers is to always be patient.

“You can have all the talents in the world, but if you do not have patience, everything will not go according to plan.

“You should have patience and self-belief. It does not matter if 80 or one hundred people believe in you, if you do not believe you can do it, then there is no point in pushing yourself.”

Being roommates with Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Jiuta Wainiqolo is something he relishes and is by far his most memorable moment in camp.

“To be in the same room as an Olympian, is something I look forward to. He had achieved something Fijian youngsters only dream of and to be his roommate is pretty special.”

Mataele knows home support is a crucial component of a team’s performance. He hopes Fijian rugby fans will come out in numbers to cheer them.

“I humbly urge fans to come in numbers and support us. We are looking forward to play in front of our families and fans and we hope the crowd will be vocal at the ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

“I know we will put up a good performance and your support will really mean a lot to us.”

One thing he has always kept close to his heart was the advice from his grandparents.

“They said; ‘Always put God first and everything will fall into place.’

“I have always kept their advice and it is where I draw my inspiration from. My family is important to me and I play the game for them. Doing all these small things right will give you a sense of accomplishment and you can face whatever adversity head-on when you have the support of your family.

“When I received the message from coach Vern Cotter to be a part of the Pacifi c Nations Cup squad, I was really happy to be included knowing that I would be representing my country at home in front of my family.

“We live here in Raiwai and I know the support from home is going to play a major part in my game.

“My family members have been messaging saying they are looking forward to watching me and my brothers take the field for this PNC.”

The Flying Fijians take on Tonga in the first Pacifi c Nations Cup match at the ANZ Stadium at Laucala Bay at 3.30pm on Saturday while Australia A takes on Samoa at 1pm.

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