Jerry Fo­cuses on Fam­ily

Fo­cuses on Fam­ily

mailife - - Contents - By MELA KATONIVUALIKU Pho­tos IVAMERE ROKOVESA

THE birth of his son – his sec­ond child – two months ago is ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion for Voda­fone 7s half-back and Olympic Cham­pion Sere­maia Tuwai Vu­nisa to achieve greater things in life. Jerry, which is the English trans­la­tion of his iTaukei birth­name Sere­maia, has al­ways had his fam­ily at heart – es­pe­cially his par­ents Poasa Vu­nisa and Seruwaia Vua­liku. The 28-year-old Buca Bay vil­lager from Vanua Levu who made his rugby de­but for Fiji at the 2014 Gold Coast 7s, said he will never ever for­get his hum­ble be­gin­nings and the strug­gle his par­ents went through to see he achieved his dreams as a rugby player. His home in Tamole Road in Newtown was a full house when fam­ily gath­ered to pre­pare for his daugh­ter Noe­lani Vu­nisa’s first birth­day. Jerry’s heav­ily preg­nant wife, Mere­ana Fo­lau was due to give birth any time and had started hav­ing labour pains. A few days later, maiL­ife made an­other trip to that pop­u­lar round­about at Tamole Road where Vu­nisa started play­ing rugby as a young boy. He was home rest­ing, his weary look telling the story. “I had to rush my wife to the hos­pi­tal early this morn­ing. She has given birth to our son, Jone Naviu Ku­navula Vu­nisa and I am very happy.” “I was here last year when Noe­lani was born and I cut her um­bil­i­cal cord and now for my son’s birth I am here again – it is a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence watch­ing the birth of your chil­dren. “Their birth­days are only a day apart so we will be hav­ing dou­ble birth­day cel­e­bra­tions now.” Jerry said he is grate­ful to his wife Mere­ana for all that she does in look­ing af­ter their daugh­ter Noe­lani and now their new­born son. He said watch­ing Mere­ana hav­ing labour pains and what else that comes with child­birth made him re­alise the im­por­tant role of women. “Watch­ing my wife in con­stant pain at the hos­pi­tal, I cried be­cause I was help­less and didn’t know what to do to com­fort her.” “I wished I could shift all that pain to me and have her re­lax, but all I could do was be there for her.” Jerry said he is happy he fi­nally has a son who will look up to him and prob­a­bly fol­low in his foot­steps.

“I have my daugh­ter Noe­lani and was wish­ing for a son when my wife gave birth again. God is good and hears our prayers by gift­ing me with my son.” De­spite fame and what­ever else ac­com­pa­nies be­ing a rugby star, Jerry still lives in the same old hum­ble home in a set­tle­ment in Newtown with his par­ents, as well as his wife and two chil­dren. “My Dad is just farmer and my Mum a care­giver and what­ever money they get they did their best in pro­vid­ing for me and my four younger sib­lings,” he said. “I have seen my par­ents strug­gle to put food on the ta­ble each day. Af­ter com­plet­ing Form 7 at Nakasi High School, I told my Mum I wanted to play rugby. “I am for­ever grate­ful to my par­ents for al­ways sup­port­ing me in what­ever ca­reer path I choose de­spite the fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties we faced.” Now with a fam­ily of his own Jerry’s fo­cus is pro­vid­ing his two chil­dren a bet­ter life. Wife Mere­ana re­calls the first time she met the nippy half­back that she greatly ad­mired him and was a big fan – and still is. “Jerry had for­got­ten his bag in the van on his re­turn from Hong Kong 7s in 2014. He called my un­cle say­ing he would be pick­ing up his bag at Ki­noya and when he did, I was in the van be­cause my un­cle was also drop­ping me off for net­ball train­ing,” she said. Ac­cord­ing to Mere­ana, Jerry thought that she was a mem­ber of Fi­jiana, the national fe­male rugby team. It was love at first sight be­cause he couldn’t get Mere­ana out of his mind. He de­cided to search for the Matuku lass on face­book. “I sent her a cou­ple of mes­sages and it took a while for her to re­spond. But when she fi­nally did I was so happy. We de­cided to meet dur­ing the Coca Cola Games in 2015. The cou­ple had a whirl­wind ro­mance and their daugh­ter was born in 2016. “I love my hus­band and will sup­port him in his ca­reer,” Mere­ana said. For Jerry, leav­ing home and a young fam­ily be­hind when go­ing to train­ing camps or for tour­na­ments abroad is a

dif­fi­cult task. “It is hard hear­ing Noe­lani cry­ing af­ter me ‘Ta! Ta’ when­ever I leave home for a tour­na­ment; these small things mat­ter to me,” he said. “At times I wished I had an­other job but I love rugby and it has brought me this far.” Rugby has given Jerry a way of be­ing able to im­prove the fam­ily’s stan­dard of liv­ing -- in­clud­ing buy­ing their first tele­vi­sion and other ap­pli­ances for the home. Shar­ing his thoughts on rugby and Fiji’s per­for­mance dur­ing the re­cent HSBC IRB 7s se­ries, Jerry said peo­ple should give Gareth Baber a chance. “Ben Ryan didn’t achieve much when he started, it took time for Ben to put a good team to­gether – a team that went on to win Fiji its first ever Olympic gold medal, so we should give Gareth a chance and just let him do his job,” Jerry said. “For me per­son­ally Ben has lifted my stan­dard of play­ing rugby and I thank him for that.” Jerry has his eyes set on the Rugby 7s World Cup to be held in San Fran­cisco, USA from 20 – 22 July next year and also the Com­mon­wealth Games to be held at the Gold Coast in Aus­tralia early next year.

Jerry with his daugh­ter Noe­lani.

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