Nadroga loses a star

Pallbearers carry Netava Tamaya’s coffi n at Nayawa Village last week. Inset: Tamaya during his playing days in Nadroga colours. Picture: SUPPLIED

FORMER Flying Fijian and Nadroga fullback Netava Tamaya was given the name ‘vehaveha’ by the people of his province in Nadroga for a reason and until he passed, people who knew him could not compare any last man down with his calibre.

The Nayawa native and father of former Nadroga captain Manoa Tamaya was laid to rest last week after a long illness.

However a tragic loss of two brothers buried in a space of three days has been a challenge for the Tamaya family because Netava Tamaya was laid to rest on Saturday when his brother Manoa Tamaya senior passed away that morning and buried on Wednesday.

Both played rugby for Lomavata club that once ruled provincial rugby club games but Netava Tamaya continued using his talent that gave him a nickname ‘vehaveha’ which meant in the rugby field by the people of Nadroga “the ball doesn’t touch the ground whenever their opponent kicks it over to him at fullback.”

The story of a rugby legend was kept at heart by a relative Akuila Dakua who memorised Netava’s journey until he passed away last week.

“It was 1979 at Naluwai Park in Naitasiri when he made his debut for Nadroga and it was an important game for him. As weeks and months passed Tamaya continued to shine in the rugby field until one day the Lomavata players were fishing at the Sigatoka River and Tamaya was our chef and this was in the 1980s I recall,” he said.

“A letter came was received from the Fiji Rugby Union that they were looking for a fullback to play for Nadroga against the All Blacks who had just beaten South Africa in a Test match and they wanted to face the Stallions.

A former rep Senitiki Nasave recommended to try the fullback spot and his skills and perfection forced him to don the number 15 jersey against the All Blacks.

“It was this historical match at the Churchill Park on July 16, 1980 when Nadroga gave the mighty All Blacks a good run despite their 14-6 loss however Tamaya was a thorn in the opposition when he secured the fullback position denying the Kiwis any chance of scoring tries from high kicks and creating gaps with his brilliant off-load skills,” said Dakua.

In 1981 Tamaya made his debut for the Flying Fijians against the Samoan side and he once again dropped the jaws of spectators with his skills and goalkicking perfection however discipline was an issue that needed to be addressed.

“The Samoan side was captained by Sam Pulu who toured Fiji in 1981 and the FRU officials Meli Kurisaru and Peter Hughes named Tamaya in the squad but his attitude in camp wasn’t adored by Kurisaru and that was his only national Test but Nadroga never backed away from Tamaya and he proved it to the people of Nadroga and Fiji rugby how he became an asset to Nadroga rugby for the nine years that they kept the Farebrother trophy and he was part of that lot that helped in defending the title.

“Tamaya became a threat to many teams especially Nadi and I remember a gentleman who heard of his death and said “I fear nothing else in the Nadroga team but when I hear the name Tamaya fullback, it chills the hairs on my back because I’m a strong Nadi fan back in the days but Netava always breaks our hearts with his performances creating tries or denying them.”

However Tamaya’s rugby journey came to an end in 1985 when Nadroga played Lautoka and he dislocated his shoulder and that was the end of Vehaveha’s rugby career but his name lived forever and his son and Sukuna Bowl Army champion Manoa Tamaya carries on his legacy.

His survived by his six children and nine grandchildren who will continue to revive the Tamaya name in the rugby arena locally and in international competitions as well.

Dakua said he would never forget the day Nadroga faced the All Blacks in 1980 and they gave the star-studded Kiwis side a rugby game they’ve never faced before.

Nadroga had a solid lineup with Peter Hughes, Peceli Kina and Nahiga in the front rows, Ilisoni Taoba and Joe Green in the locks,c Qaraniqio and Eveli Tuituba as the loosemen and Meli Kurisaru as number eight.

Epi Satavu was the halfback, Rupeni Naikiyoyo at the flyhalf, Kini Vosailagi at 12 and Wame Gavdi in 13, while Tevita Makutu stood on the wing with Tukula Tuqiri and Netava Tamaya at fullback.

All Blacks had the likes of Gary Knight, John Ashworth, Andy Dalton, Gary Pearce, Andy Haden, Mark Shaw, Jock Hobbs, Murray Mexted, Dave Loveridge, Wayne Smith, Warwick Taylor, Bruce Hupertson, Stu Wilson, Bernie Fraser and Allan Hewson.

Meanwhile Dakua hopes to see a descendent of Tamaya follow his footsteps as one of the country’s
best rated fullback.

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