HENRY SPEIGHT TALKS ABOUT THE STRONG SUPPORT OF HIS FAMILY
Wallaby Makes it Count for Family
LOSING his mother Adi Litia Levulevu at the age of eight after her long battle with cancer, and his father Samisoni Tikoinasau away working overseas for most of his childhood was a rather rough beginning for Ratu Henry Vafo’ou Speight. It could have resulted in him taking a wrong direction in life, but what it did was spur him on and give him a passion to support charities working to help fight cancer. Speight made his debut for the Brumbies during the 2011 Super Rugby season in a game against the Chiefs in Canberra. Then, after becoming eligible for national selection on 11 September 2014, the Naivicula villager from Wainibuka made his Wallabies debut during the 2014 Spring Tour against Ireland. “Playing professional rugby in Australia was one of my goals and what inspires and motivates me is my family and the sacrifices they made to enable me to be where I am today,” Speight said. “I am just trying to make their sacrifices worth it, I guess.” Speight and his siblings are long term supporters of charity work dealing with cancer. In 2016, he shaved his hair for Walk On Walk Strong (WOWS) Kids Fiji Foundation that helps children who suffer from cancer. Back in Australia, Speight managed to raise F$57,045 within two months. “I have always had a soft spot for kids who suffer from the disease. It is really hard to see kids going through chemotherapy treatment, so it is close to our hearts.” “Most times when I score a try I make a W sign which is for WOWS Kids Fiji Foundation and I am thankful I can be involved with them.” At times, Speight writes on his wrist tapes the title of Hymn 80 - Dei Tikoga Vaka Na Vatu Dina (He Set My Feet Upon The Rock), his late mother’s favourite in the Fijian Methodist Hymn book. “I miss my mum a lot and I write Hymn 80 or just a simple ‘Mum’ on my taped wrist to keep her close to my heart whenever I play. “My mum would be laughing down at me from Heaven because she used to call me her little piglet because I was chubby and fat as a small kid and would only cry when I was hungry,” Speight said. “If only my mum could see that her little piglet turned out to be a professional rugby player in Australia and is now playing
for the Wallabies.” The 29-year-old who is deemed the quiet one is known as ‘Bro with the Fro’ and ‘Silky’ to his teammates. “I think the ‘fro’ is just there with my hair,” Speight said. “Silky, on the other hand, is from my Fijian smooth skin which some of my teammates envy – but to be honest how the name came about and stuck.” But he thinks the name Silky started with the Brumbies because they respect him and because he is a man of a few words. “I just listen and do my own thing. I don’t say much. But sometimes I unexpectedly drop a line or two when we are joking around and my mates are caught off guard, so I think the name ‘Silky’ also came about from there.” The former Queen Victoria School student who will always call Fiji home has played against his countrymen. “I played against Fiji in rugby 7s back in 2015 but the test match in June was an emotional experience for me as I played for the Wallabies against Fiji. “I had this special feeling and I am grateful that our Wallabies coach Michael Cheika acknowledges that some of us in the team come from different countries and backgrounds and he does not put any restrictions on us singing both national anthems,” Speight said. “I was singing the Fijian national anthem as well, and it brought back memories of how I used to sing it during assembly at Veiuto Primary School and later on at QVS. “For me singing the national anthem of my country of birth despite being an opponent was a humbling experience because I never dreamt I would be playing against Fiji. I have always dreamt that I would play for Fiji and sing the national anthem in Hong Kong or somewhere. But to hear the national anthem and to line up against the cibi (Fijian war cry) – to me that was a very special moment in my rugby career.” Despite playing for the Wallabies, Speight still considers the white jersey as special. “No matter where I go, when I see a Fijian team playing, I will support it 100 per cent – unless I have to play against them. Other than that, I will always support Fiji and back the boys to perform.” When asked if he would consider playing in a white jersey instead of a green and gold one, Speight said it would be hard to try and wear the white jersey now. “With the level of competition here and the quality of players abundant locally, it would be very hard for me,” Speight said. Growing up, Speight has always looked up to his older Fijian brothers Sitiveni Sivivatu and Joe Rokocoko, who both made it into the number one rugby team in the world - the All Blacks. “I have a lot of respect for these two particular players, mainly because they are Fijians and I could relate to them and they take me closer to home,” Speight said.
“Seeing them making it into the All Blacks team is an achievement. They are just two ordinary boys from Fiji and if they could make it, there is really no excuse why I or any young person like me can’t make it and achieve our dreams.” The name Speight instantly rings a bell for many Fijians locally and abroad because his uncle George is currently serving a life sentence in Fiji prison for his actions during the May 2000 coup. Asked about his relationship to George, Speight acknowledges that George is his uncle. “I don’t deny it, I am of the view that I can choose my friends but I cannot choose my family – they are God given and despite their shortfalls whatever it may be, they will always be family.” And family is just what Speight misses the most when he is abroad. “I miss the company of having my family members around, so being overseas can be quite isolating. I miss having my aunties, uncles, and cousins around under one roof. “And that is the first thing I always miss is the noise. I get home and it’s really quiet whereas here in Fiji there is always the sound of laughter and people talking and kids playing around and that the first thing that hits me when I get back.”
The little ‘piglet’ as his late mother Adi Litia Levulevu used to call him. Henry Speight and his late mother.
Young Henry Speight with his siblings back in the day.
Henry Speight and his brother during his younger days at Veiuto Primary School.
The love of family and the sacrifices they made is what keeps Speight going.