A product of the PACMAS supported Rugby Plus initiative has signed up a two year deal with Super Rugby club Melbourne Rebels. He is 22-year old centre Sefanaia Naivalu who is fast becoming known in the Australian state of Victoria as the Fijian rugby scoring machine. Naivalu is from Levuka Vakaviti village in Fiji’s Lomaiviti province and played for the Ovalau Rugby club before being brought to Melbourne by Island Breeze Australia who runs RugbyPlus.
‘RugbyPlus Clinic’ is an initiative of Island Breeze Australia and the PACMAS Innovation Fund is a major financier of the Pacific clinics. Rugby Plus addresses the growing problem of anti-social behaviour amongst youths by providing a positive alternative in the form of sports clinics and strong role-modelling activities. The clinics address complex issues such as gender discrimination, poverty, health issues, poor self-esteem, and isolation issues remote communities face, such as limited access to resources, conflict resolution and anger management.
Nailvalu becomes the first rugby player from the Australian state of Victoria to sign with the Melbourne Rebels. He top scored with seventeen tries in the Dewar Shield this season and four tries for Melbourne Rising in the same season during the National Rugby Championships. Commenting immediately after his signing at the Rugby Plus academy in Melbourne this month, the softly spoken Fijian said “It’s my dream to play at Super Rugby level, and now I am ready and proud to get the chance”.
He attributed this breakthrough to the support of a range of people and institutions including the Island Breeze fraternity and its co-directors Jade and Waqa Baravilala, and acknowledged that the clinics held in Fiji has helped keep him out of trouble and away from drugs. Meanwhile a handful of other Fijians who are products of the Rugby Plus clinics are at the Island Breeze academy in Melbourne in pursuit of their dreams of becoming professional rugby players and becoming role models for their people back in their homeland.