The God­fa­ther of Fiji Rugby

mailife - - Content - By MELA KATONIVUALIKU Pho­tos by JONE LUVENITOGA

BLIS­TER­ING runs, goose steps and bone crunch­ing tack­les are just some of the things we love when we watch rugby live or on tele­vi­sion. Lo­cal play­ers with the likes of Jo­sua ‘the Bus’ Tuisova, his brother Filipo ‘the Bull’ Nakosi, Pio ‘the mas­ter of­floader’ Tuwai, Waisea Nacuqu and Semi ‘the Beast’ Ku­natani are just a few play­ers who were dis­cov­ered by Aus­tralian na­tional Jay Whyte. The list goes on. MaiL­ife has la­beled him as the God­fa­ther of Fiji Rugby with the fact that he dis­cov­ered these rugby greats and their po­ten­tial that have led them to se­cure over­seas con­tracts in France, New Zealand and many other coun­tries. Apart from that, these very play­ers were part of the na­tional rugby team to the 2016 Rio Olympics that won Fiji its first ever gold medal. We can say Whyte is the un­sung hero or the man be­hind these rugby greats. Jay Hey­man Whyte, 40, is orig­i­nally from Berowra Heights, in New South Wales Aus­tralia. As a re­sult of his first trip to Fiji in 1991 Whyte re­turned to Aus­tralia and de­cided to pack up and move to Fiji in 2005. “I made this de­ci­sion as I was fol­low­ing my dream to share the Fijian life I had ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­te­rior vil­lages with vis­i­tors and lo­cals alike,” Whyte said. “The first im­pres­sion I had about Fiji was the open­ness and al­most in­no­cence of the peo­ple. They are so gen­er­ous in spirit – na yalo vina!” Upon his visit in 1991, Whyte struck up a friend­ship with Pita

Matasau who was a se­cu­rity guard at the Shangri-La’s Fijian Re­sort. “Pita would tell me about Fiji, his vil­lage and many great sto­ries that had me cap­ti­vated. He in­vited me and my fam­ily up to Draiba Vil­lage in Navosa on April 1st 1991 and it was through this ex­pe­ri­ence I in­stantly fell in love with Fiji.” Whyte added the peo­ple of Draiba wel­comed them like long lost fam­ily. “This day I be­lieve I was born for a sec­ond time here in Fiji. I learn so much from the peo­ple about true hu­mil­ity and lov­ing your neigh­bor.” “What I love most about Fiji are the ‘koiy­ata’ or ‘kai­colo’. It was my in­ter­ac­tion with them in 1991 that saw me fall in love with Fiji and I will al­ways re­spect and cher­ish them for what they gave to me and what they taught me about what is im­por­tant in life.” Whyte said he has al­ways wanted to re­verse the stigma of be­ing called a ‘kai­colo’ or ‘koiy­ata’ and help en­lighten those amongst us who use this phrase when talk­ing about some­one who suf­fers from cul­ture shock. “The ‘koiy­ata’ and ‘kai­colo’ are amaz­ing peo­ple who are strong, lov­ing and al­ways happy to share their lives with any­one.” “I am proud to be ‘koiy­ata’,” The third child in the fam­ily with an older brother and sis­ter to look up to and a younger sis­ter to mo­ti­vate, Whyte said his child­hood was great grow­ing up in the north­ern part of Syd­ney sur­rounded by the bush and na­ture. “I had lots of great friends from dif­fer­ent back­grounds. I was very for­tu­nate that my par­ents Colin and Chris­tine Whyte were able to take us on fam­ily hol­i­days that in­cluded over­seas des­ti­na­tions which was a pretty big treat back in those days.” His par­ents and his en­tire fam­ily love Fiji and re­turn ev­ery year to visit. “They love the peo­ple, the coun­try and the whole way of life in Fiji,” Whyte’s love for our is­land par­adise has led him to fall in love with Si­ga­toka beauty Lolla Traill who was born and raised in the rugby town. “I met her through a mu­tual friend at a house in Koro­togo. This same house we ac­tu­ally bought in 2009 and have lived in this house since.” A ro­man­tic at heart, Whyte pro­posed to Lolla at home on her birth­day. “She came down the steps to meet me. I tried to get the words out but as soon as she saw me reach­ing into my pocket and say­ing will you…. She hugged me so tight and I took this to mean yes she would.” “Fiji is home now for me and we are ex­pect­ing our first baby in the next few weeks so we look for­ward to rais­ing our child here in Fiji and who knows whether they might be a fu­ture fly-half for the Fly­ing Fi­jians or Fi­jiana.” Whyte has since set up a busi­ness here in Si­ga­toka, which pro­motes Fiji’s orig­i­nal and the world’s first vil­lage jet boat

sa­fari – the Si­ga­toka River Sa­fari. “We work with 17 dif­fer­ent vil­lages and en­able all our guests to ex­pe­ri­ence a day in the life of the Kaiv­iti.” “The fo­cus of the sa­fari ad­ven­ture is al­low­ing vis­i­tors to get a glimpse of Fijian vil­lage life and the bonus if you get there aboard our cus­tom built Sa­fari jet boats.” Rated as Num­ber 1 on Trip Ad­vi­sor for Out­door Ac­tiv­i­ties in Fiji, they also won the 2017 World Travel Award for Best Ad­ven­ture Tour Op­er­a­tor for the Aus­trala­sia re­gion. With his busi­ness grow­ing from strength to strength, Whyte in­jects as much ef­fort and fi­nan­cial sup­port to give back to the lo­cal com­mu­nity in the form of him es­tab­lish­ing the an­nual Mana Whey Fiji Co­ral Coast 7s Rugby Tour­na­ment. He had ini­tially planned for it to be a lo­cal tour­na­ment aimed at de­vel­op­ing grass­root level rugby. How­ever, it has gone big and has be­come an in­ter­na­tional event with rugby teams from abroad grac­ing our shores. “The first year was a lo­cal tour­na­ment to prove the vi­a­bil­ity of the event and the aim was to open it up to the world and en­able qual­ity teams to visit the Co­ral Coast and test them­selves against the very best op­po­nents of the game of 7s – the Fi­jians.” “A ma­jor part of the de­ci­sion to start the event was also the fact the tour­na­ment would of­fer our lo­cal boys and girls the high­est cal­iber of tour­na­ment play and en­able them to truly raise their game­play.” Whyte said the in­spi­ra­tion to start it came from be­ing the Chair­man of the Co­ral Coast Mar­ket­ing Com­mit­tee of Fiji Ho­tels & Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion. “We as a col­lec­tive wanted to cre­ate an event that would drive the pro­file of the re­gion and help es­tab­lish the Co­ral Coast as a sport­ing des­ti­na­tion. We cre­ated the Co­ral Coast 7s in 2010 and it has grown in leaps and bounds since then.” In that time the Co­ral Coast 7s have wel­comed thou­sands of play­ers and vis­i­tors from around the world. “I was able to in­cor­po­rate an idea that I had back in 2007 to cre­ate a Rugby Walk of Fame which now ex­ists here in Sig­town Town and is a world’s first.” The Rugby Walk of Fame started with: 2011 – David Cam­pese & Waisale Serevi 2012 – Jonah Lomu 2013 – Ben Gollings & Vili Satala 2014 – Karl TeNana 2016 – Lote Tuqiri 2017 – Ge­orge Gre­gan & Rio Olympic 7s Team 2018 – DJ Forbes “The play­ers who have par­tic­i­pated to date and se­cured them­selves fu­tures here and abroad is so re­ward­ing as it proves the le­git­i­macy of the event and of course high­lights the way in which it is val­ued by the stake­hold­ers.” In his time in the rugby town, Whyte has sup­ported the Navosa Rugby Union and set up Ya­ma­cia Rugby, which pro­duced one of Fiji’s rugby greats Semi Ku­natani. “I have a close per­sonal friend­ship with Semi Ku­natani as he hails from Naviyago Vil­lage and I have seen him grow up so to speak.” “Watch­ing his per­sonal devel­op­ment and suc­cess fills my heart with great pride. He is a tremen­dous player and an even bet­ter per­son – a true ex­am­ple of the hu­mil­ity and pride of Navosa.” In 2012 Jone Macilai also se­cured a con­tract in New Zealand and has gone on to big­ger and bet­ter things also. Whyte said see­ing our lo­cal play­ers suc­ceed is awe­some and he wants noth­ing but the best for them.

Y for Ya­ma­cia Rugby Club. Whyte is all for rugby.

Jay Whyte with the Plate Win­ners of the MWFCC 7s 2018 Fi­jiana Women’s team.

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