A lasting legacy: Tui Kamikamica’s ultimate gift to family

Photo: NRL

To the untrained eye they are just hills, but to Tui Kamikamica they are the ticket to building generational wealth for his family.

It’s here in the place the Storm front-rower was raised, on an island made up of no more than 10,000 people, that the real impact of his NRL career can be seen and experienced.

With the fruits of his rugby league labours, Tui has chosen to funnel much of his wealth back to the village of Somosomo.

That has included converting the family farm into a commercial kava business that is providing money for those closest to him and employing local people.

And it’s just the start, with ambitious plans to expand beyond the Fijian domestic market and begin exporting to Australia at the centre of Tui’s vision to future-proof his bloodline. 

Turning a way of life into a business

As the only son of Joji and Manise Kamikamica, growing up Tui had no choice but to help his father on the farm where almost all of the food the family ate was raised or grown.

It was tough work in the tropical heat, often done with the pair having already walked several hours from their home to the farm. 

“It was school during the week and then on the weekend I’d go up with the old man to the farm and help him,” Tui tells NRL.com.

“I remember there was no running water at our house at that time.”

When his NRL debut arrived in 2017, five years after he originally left Somosomo for Australia to pursue a professional career, at the first available opportunity Tui headed home to start giving back. 

He pitched a proposal to his parents to start the process of clearing bush off their nearly 100-acre block in order to put thousands of kava plants in the ground and move from a personal use model to one which could make them money. 

Five years on the first crop was harvested and sold in Fiji last year, netting the family a helpful lump-sum which has now inspired plans to upscale again. 

The next harvest will be bigger – with 20 acres of the farm still to be developed – and will likely be sent much further afield, with Tui currently developing export pathways into Australia.

There are also plans to build a retail store in Somosomo which would be run by his sister, providing employment for her and another point of sale for the product. 

‘Mum, choose your colour’

The kindness shown by Tui extends well beyond business.

He has built a brand new three-bedroom home for his parents in Somosomo, replacing the ageing house he was raised in.

They’re also the proud owners of a new Toyota Hilux ute, which means Joji avoids countless hours of walking to and from the farm.

Really though, it was a gift for mum. 

“Tui came home for a visit and took us to the dealership. He said to me ‘OK mum, choose your colour and what type you want.’ I told him he could do it, but he replied, ‘no mum, you have to do it! This is a gift to you’,” Manise recalls.   

“It’s a great help to have our own vehicle to travel to the farm and a big relief for his father.”

Tui also regularly sends money across which allows Manise to fly home from Suva, where she is based for work, back to Somosomo, saving her a boat trip which can take up to 13 hours depending on weather. 

“We are so lucky to have him and for him to be kind enough and mature enough to want to look after his family,” Manise says. 

“Whenever Tui comes home he gives so much time too. 

“He will always spend time doing training sessions with his cousins, he always spends time talking to them, encouraging them to keep working hard.

“His message to them is to keep working hard and that one day they will achieve what they are dreaming of. 

“They are inspired now to reach the level Tui is at.”

It comes as no surprise to Fiji teammate Marcelo Montoya, who admits he is in awe of his countrymen and their selfless approach. 

“Family to Tui is everything, and you see similar traits to Bill [Viliame] Kikau. Just a beautiful person in and out,” he says. 

“They come here to the NRL and get that opportunity, but they still have their family in their mind. They never forget where they come from.”

The end game

At 28 and in his seventh season as an NRL player, Tui is now planning for what life after rugby league will look like for him and his family.

Regardless of what comes next, through rugby league the hulking prop has ensured future generations of his family won’t grow up without the basic necessities he lacked as a child. 

He can also rest easy knowing his parents won’t have to work past retirement age. 

“Once the farm is running fully, when mum retires from teaching she won’t have to worry about what she’s doing for money,” he says. 

“I will definitely stay here in Australia once I retire. I want to stay and be able to support my parents as much as I can. “It’s only a three-hour flight back to Australia, so I see myself here after footy and I will travel back to check on the farm.”