Ra’s quiet and obedient hero

Paula Dranisinukula leads the sevens side during one of their training runs. Picture: FT FILE

Fiji Airways 7s captain Paula Dranisinukula may have wowed the world on the rugby paddock but it is at his village of Navuniivi in Ra where you will find his most loyal devotees.

Among them is his own chief, Tui Navitilevu, Ratu Paula Baleisasa who fondly calls the seven’s star “noqu yaca” (my namesake).

Dranisinukula’s father and namesake is the turaga ni yavusa of Buretu while his mum is a vasu to Tui Navitilevu’s household.

His traditional role is sauturaga, a protector of the chief.

Talking about the soldier’s rise to the top echelon of the sport of sevens rugby, Ratu Paula said Dranisinukula was destined for greatness because of his humble character.

“My namesake was quiet and shy as a child. He hardly spoke and respected his elders,” Ratu Paula said.

“If he wanted something from his father, he would first confide in his mother. His mum would then approach his father on his behalf.”

Ratu Paula said Dranisinukula was also “respectful and obedient”.

“He was respectful and obedient and listened to his father. In fact, he respected his father so much, in the true traditional i-Taukei manner. He would not speak directly to his dad.”

Tui Navitilevu believes Dranisinukula developed his passion for rugby while attending Ratu Kadavulevu School in Tailevu.

“He always wanted to play rugby in school but his dad discouraged him. He was told to first focus on his studies,” said Ratu Paula.

“Despite his dad’s warning, there was always a burning desire in him to play. I believe playing rugby was a talent God gave him and he used his well.”

Navuniivi historian, former village headman and matanivanua ni yasana o Ra (spokesperson of the province of Ra) Josaia Moceinasavu spoke the same things about Dranisinukula, describing him as someone who “spoke less and listened more”.

“Paula Drani was quiet, obedient and had a lot of respect. I believe those qualities got him far and took him to where he is today.”

Moceinasavu said, being a hilly village without a playground, developing rugby skills in Navuniivi was a challenge.

“Our kids use the beach because we don’t have a suitable place to play so to have someone from the village to reach Drani’s level is amazing. He did the unbelievable.”

In recognition of Dranisinukula’s outstanding achievement in sevens rugby, the province of Ra will hold a celebration on Friday, July 12, at the Ra Provincial Grounds in Dadamu, in conjunction with its soli ni yasana (fundraising for the province of Ra). Other members of the Fiji Airways 7s team will attend the upcoming event.

“The four paramount chiefs of Ra believe a celebration will be the best way to thank him for being the first son of Ra to captain the national 7s team,” Moceinasavu said.

“Apart from being accorded a full traditional welcome ceremony, he will also receive gifts and some pocket money. It’s not a lot, just to say vinaka for a job well done. I believe his team members will be there too and we will also give them an envelope each.”

Entertainment is expected to be provided by the Police Jazz Band on the day. Born on September 23, 1989, Dranisinukula played for RKS, provincial teams and Army before joining the Fiji team.

He is a forward in the national rugby sevens team and a soldier in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

Dranisinukula made his debut for the national rugby sevens team during the 2017 HSBC World Rugby 7s leg in Paris, France.

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