From Soccer To The Oval Ball

Thursday 4th February, 2016

Rugby is relatively new for Viniana Naisaluwaki Riwai who started playing soccer as a teenager back in her home town of Labasa.

The 24-year-old Biagunu, Saqani, Cakaudrove lass said she took up the sport of rugby the same way she took up the sport of soccer, by accident.

"I've always enjoyed sports in any form and when I was given the opportunity to play soccer, I jumped," she said.

Whilst representing Labasa Muslim College, Viniana was chosen to participate in trials for the Fiji Womens Football team.

"So I was fortunate to have been chosen to be part of the women's football team to the South Pacific Games in 2011 in New Caledonia," she said.

It was while studying at the University of the South Pacific in 2013 that she got to enjoy the physicality of rugby.

"I would go and play touch and then during the inter-tertiary competitions I joined the Women's Islanders Rugby team.

"This was where I met Elenoa Kunatuba who encouraged me to join the Marist Seahawks," said Viniana.

The eldest of four's transition from soccer to rugby was almost effortless because later in 2013 she was part of the team that participated in Team Fijiana's outing in Shanghai, China as part of the World Series.

Later on she would be chosen to be a part of the Team Fijiana team that also took part in the World Cup in Moscow, Russia.

"After that I took to soccer again just to keep fit and found my way back into the team that played in the 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea," Viniana said.

"It was only when I got back that I heard about the trials for the Team Fijiana to Rio so I tough I would also give it a shot."

At the moment, Viniana said she was taking it one day at a time and that she understood that the fight for places for Rio would be tough.

"So like everyone else on the team, we just put our heads down and train hard and hopefully we can make that final squad to the Olympics in Rio."

Viniana is also a STOP Champion, a healthy lifestyle programme associated with FASANOC.



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