Jerry Focuses on Family
Focuses on Family
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.