From Geraldine Panapasa in Fiji (9 May 2007)
Rotuma Games are an annual event many Rotumans look forward to, not only to socialize and have fun but also to showcase the tremendous sporting potential that goes unrecognised in Fiji. Our people have succeeded in many areas of development in Fiji: the medical profession, politics, law and order and so on. Sports, like any of the above, is just as an important field to succeed in. Volleyball, netball and rugby -- the three main sports played at the Rotuma games -- are actually key sports in Fiji, especially rugby. So far there have only been a handful of Rotumans making the final national rugby team cut. Maka Kafoa, Gabriel Penjueli were noted as the only Rotumans to ever make it to the Fiji national rugby union team (in 1994). Victor Atalifo was part of the Presidents XV, and Ian Sagaitu was part of the Fiji Bati team in 1992, now part of the North Sydney Bears league club in Australia.
Today, more younger Rotuman lads are showing an interest in rugby. Ricco Panapasa, is now seen as the ‘brightest light in Rotuma’s rugby aspirations’ ("An island, rugby and hope" by Fred Wesley). Ricco has been part of the Fiji national team since 2004 where he played prop for the Under 18 Fiji Hot Bread Kitchen rugby team; in 2005 he was part of the Fiji national Under 21 team that partook in the FORU competition (qualifying games in the Pacific for the Under 21 World Cup in 2006). In 2006 he was part of the Fiji Under 21 team to the International Under 21 World Cup in France, and early 2007 he was named in the Fiji HPU (High Performance Unit). His first cousins Mark and Chanel Panapasa, were part of the Fiji Bati Under 16 team that toured Australia in 2005. Not forgetting my very good friend, Tuilakepa Faktaufon, who was also part of the Fiji Under 18 Hot Bread team in 2003.
Moreover, rugby is not the only sport Rotumans are excelling in. Our women have also shown what they can do in netball. In Fiji, Bernadette Ramafono was a familiar face in the netball arena until she withdrew from international netball in early 2006. She has been an exceptionally brilliant player and has been a role model for those enthusiastic young netters who play at the Rotuma games. Tall and talented Lisa Faktaufon and national rep Seforosa Munivai, are also an inspiration for many Rotuman netters. Rigamoto Panapasa has also been involved in Fiji netball for a very long time. He has vast experience in coaching and umpiring netball games. In 2003 he was the assistant competition manager for the South Pacific Games, and in 2006 he was appointed assistant manager, technical and games, for the WNC (World Netball Championships 2007) that were supposed to have been hosted by Fiji until the 5 December 2006 military takeover.
Volleyball is another sidelined sport where our fellow Rotumans have not been recognized until now. In 2007 two of our very own made it to the Fiji national volleyball men’s squad for the Oceania Games in Samoa next October. Hanisoko Michael and Metuisela Mesulame from the Lautoka Volleyball Association were given a standing ovation at the recent Rotuma Volleyball Tournament when they were recognized for their hardwork and dedication in the sport. At the Rotuman Volleyball tournament, hosted by Satarua, Hanisoko and Mesulame showed why they made the Fiji team as they helped Mairo win the Men’s A grade.
These are just a few Rotumans in Fiji who have quietly made a name for themselves in sports. There are other Rotumans, like Fuata Faktaufon (athletics), Iliesa Irava, Raymond Konrote, Benjamin Fatiaki, Rupeni Fatiaki (weightlifting), Burty Molia (Badminton), Yohanna Mitchell (Outrigger canoeing), Marieta Mani (Basketball), Rita Morris (Squash), and Frentina Andrea (Chess), Adriena Varomue (Hockey) and Australian-Rotuman Selina Gilsenan (Neball Australia) are fast making a fast impact in sports.