Growing up on Bau island, Fijiana Drua Manager Alisi Komaitai says rugby was not something for women. But Komaitai bucked the status quo and braved getting a ‘smack’ for the love of rugby.
Komaitai reminisced about her journey, “The interest for rugby started from childhood. We all know that rugby is a national sport, so we usually sit in front of the television and watch the game; that’s where my interest started.”
She smiles as she recalls, “I used to play rugby outside with the boys. This is when my father would always punish me; he would come to the playground with a stick and chase me home, but it didn’t matter because it was my passion and my love for rugby.”
That discouragement continued when she attended secondary school at ACS. “I remember on a Saturday in secondary school, a bunch of us were punished for playing rugby.”
Komaitai’s love and passion for the sport finally got a break when she attended the University of the South Pacific. Participating in inter-tertiary games against Fiji National University teams (formerly known as FIT), were the start of what has shaped her career now.
“From USP, then I played for Striders, the Suva women’s team for three years, and then the national team going to Australia and Japan. I never thought there was a manager’s role for me in rugby,” she said.
The defending Super W champions manager has been part of the rugby scene for almost 10 years now and has seen the various challenges faced by the women’s team over that time. She says there has been a ‘big improvement’ in conditions and the environment..
Komaitai said, “I remember in 2016, our camp allowance would be $120 – $130 a week, but compared to now, the girls are getting $100 a day, and that’s the national level.
“On the provincial level, it used to be voluntary, and we never got paid, so now the unions are trying their best to pay the women equally to the men’s team, which did not exist before,” she said.
Stepping into her new role as manager for the team, she has to put on a different hat as a mother, counsellor, and friend to the girls. “I had to listen to their complaints and all sides of the story before advising them or acting on any complaint,” she said.
Komaitai and three of the players, Siteri Rasolea, Lavenia Tinai, Asinate Serevi, and Merewesi Fuga, took part in a panel discussion organised by Women in Media (WiM), the Fiji Rugby Union, and the Australian High Commission yesterday.
According to Komaitai, the team will confidently defend their Super W title, and is putting in a lot of work to make that happen.