Making the cut
by Kalesi Mele
LEEROY Atalifo is over the moon with his selection to be a part of the national Rugby World Cup team scheduled to compete in England next month.
The Oinafa, Rotuma native said he had never considered rugby seriously until he started playing for the Suva team.
"I was in Lelean 2005 but didn't really play rugby. I came from Rotuma and for myself I didn't really play rugby back home.
"After I finished from Lelean Memorial School, I came to FNU, and when I went for practical, one of the teams wanted me to play rugby. But it didn't hit me until 2012, I graduated and I was still looking for a job so I thought I would just take up rugby," he said.
With the rest of his family ecstatic over his selection, Atalifo has started viewing videos of oppositions' games, gearing himself up for the tough road ahead.
"This is not a sacrifice I did on my own; it is something we did as a family. They have been pushing me and helping me," he said.
The journey then for the 27-year-old has been one of sacrifice and hard work and the prop did not lose faith in his capabilities after being dropped from the recent touring Pacific Nations team and competing against overseas-based players for a spot on the team.
"It's a big achievement. I never thought I would come this far but since taking it seriously, I have put a lot of effort into it kind of like paid off so I am quite happy. There was a lot of sacrifice getting here and now that I am here, it doesn't stop here. I am looking forward for the games to come and apply everything I have learnt on the field, if given a chance," he said.
Being one of only two local-based players to join the team, he says the selection could motivate others who vie for national representation.
"For the two of us to make it, I had a feeling that it would be a boost for the other local players, even though we don't have the opportunity of playing in overseas clubs. You don't have to be playing there, if you put a lot of hard work and determination you can make it this far," he said.
Flying Fijians prop Leeroy Atalifo enjoys Sunday afternoon with his nephew Wilson, sister Sefo and mother Olivia at their home in Valelevu yesterday.
Picture: Jovesa Naisua