Supporting the little genius for 7s glory

Jerry Tuwai is in the running for the World Rugby Men’s 7s Player of the Decade award. Picture: FILE

‘Vote for Tuwai’- this was the message from national 7s coach Gareth Baber in Saturday’s The Fiji Times.

Baber, who described Jerry as a little genius, had this to say, “Fiji owns the best two rugby players in the world.

One has retired, and I was fortunate to have played against Wise (Waisale Serevi) and would not want to play against him again.

“The other one (Tuwai) is still running around and he is defi nite to take us to the Olympic Games in Japan.”

Apart from Baber, Fiji’s 7s guru and maestro Waisale Serevi spoke out in favour of little Jerry and said that Jerry was better than him (Serevi).

The words shared by Serevi and Baber refl ect the enormous respect that Jerry has in the shorter code of rugby.

From my point of view, Jerry deserves the World Rugby Men’s 7s Player of the Decade Award as he has the Olympics gold medal that none of those contesting, apart from Samisoni Virivi, have.

Jerry Tuwai was voted the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series (WRSS) 2019 7s Player of the Year after being nominated for the third year running.

Jerry became the fi rst Fijian player to taste 18 cup title wins in the WRSS circuit and three WRSS overall titles.

Jerry has also become Fiji’s alltime top try scorer. When Jerry Tuwai was awarded the 2019 WRSS Player of the Year, our PM said, “A well-deserved accolade for our own Jerry Tuwai.

We know Jerry is far too humble to sing his own praises, but with 18 cup fi nals, one gold medal, and three World Series titles, he’s not only the man of the year in 7s rugby, he’s one of the greatest players of all time.”

Jerry Tuwai is a contender for the World Rugby Men’s 7s Player of the Decade Award alongside Fiji’s Olympics gold medalist Samisoni Viriviri, NZ’s Tomasi Cama Jr, who is their assistant coach, and veteran Tim Mikkelson, Samoa’s paceman Mikaele Pesamino, who was part of Samoa’s 2009/10 WRSS overall title win, South Africa’s gasman Seabelo Senatla, Cecil Afrika and robust forward Werner Kok, and USA Eagle’s speed merchant Perry Baker.

Jerry, who made his debut for Fiji at the 2014 Gold Coast 7s, was named player of the tournament at the 2014 World Club 7s where he played for Davetalevu. He was also Player of the Final at the 2015 Dubai Sevens where Fiji beat South Africa in the final 29- 17 after hammering NZ in the semis 44-0.

Tuwai was the stand out player at the 2015 Las Vegas Sevens final when Fiji beat New Zealand 35-19 in the final.

Tuwai was an integral part of the Fiji 7s squad that competed at the 2016 Olympics, where Fiji beat Brazil, the USA, Argentina, NZ and Japan to qualify for the Olympic Rugby 7s final, where they thrashed Great Britain by 43-7.

It was the first time that Fiji won an Olympic medal, and this gave the whole country something to cheer on, especially after the devastation caused by STC Winston, which hit Fiji in February.

Tuwai’s stardom has not come easy and to this day, he credits his mom and dad for his achievements on the rugby field, and cites them as his motivation to perform and achieve accolades in rugby. Tuwai has credited his parents for his humility. When he was young, Tuwai’s father and mother saved enough money to buy him his first pair of rugby boots.

As she handed them over, she told him, “This is your knife and fork”.

As World Rugby prepares to name the World Rugby Men’s 7s Player of the Decade, I’m hopeful that Jerry Tuwai’s achievements will not be overlooked. Viriviri made his debut at the 2012 Gold Coast Sevens.

His top performance and eight tries at Hong Kong gave him the Best and Fairest Player Award, and he ended the 2012-13 WRSS with 29 tries.

At the end of the 2014 London 7s, Viriviri was awarded the Player of the Year Award, and he became the first Fijian (playing for Fiji) to win that award.

Pesamino was the third highest try scorer in the 2007-08 WRSS and the top try scorer in the 2009-10 winning season.

Pesamino scored a try in the final of the 2007 Wellington 7s to help give Samoa its first tournament win with a 17-14 victory over Fiji in the final.

NZ’s Mikkelson is the most capped player in the team’s history. Mikkelson was named player of the tournament for the 2013 WRSS. Mikkelson has scored more than 200 career tries for NZ in the WRSS, putting him third on the all-time try scorers list in that competition.

Mikkelson’s colleague Cama Jr was picked for the ABs 7s team in 2005 and has an industrious career with the Men in Black. He retired in 2015. Cama won the 2010 Commonwealth 7s gold medal and the 2013 Melrose Cup with the ABs.

USA’s Baker, who has scored over 200 tries, has established himself as one of the best rugby 7s players in the world. In the 2015-16 WRSS, Baker was ranked second with 48 tries scored and was one of seven players in the WRSS Dream Team.

In the 2016-17 WRSS, Baker was ranked first with 57 tries scored, and was again named in the WRSS Dream Team, and won the 2017 and 2018 World Rugby 7s Player of the Year award. South Africa’s Senatla caught the attention of the Blitzbokke and he signed a two-year contract to play for them on the WRSS circuit in 2013 and 2014.

He made his debut at the 2013 Wellington 7s tournament and played in a total of five tournaments during the 2012-13 WRSS.

He also represented them at the 2013 RWC 7s as they were knocked out in the quarter-finals, before being part of the squad that won gold at the 2013 World Games in Cali.

He won gold with the green machine in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He featured in a further fi ve tournaments during the 2013-14 WRSS and topped the try-scoring charts for the Blitzbokke, scoring 29 tries during the season. Senatla’s teammate Afrika debuted for the South African 7s team during the Dubai leg of the 2009-10 WRSS.

He was part of the team that won bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi. Afrika missed out on the 2011 Wellington 7s because of a broken jaw.

He was the top try and point-scorer for the 2010-11 WRSS and he scored 40 tries throughout the series with a total of 385 points.

In 2011, he won the WRSS 7s Player of the Year award. Finally, Kok, who still dons the green jumper, made his debut for South Africa at the 2013 London 7s.

He established himself as a regular for South Africa during the 2013-14 WRSS, including their wins at the 2013 South Africa 7s and the 2014 USA 7s.

He was also included in their squad that played at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, helping his side to the final, where they got a 17-12 victory over NZ which had won the previous four tournaments.

Kok was named the WRSS Player of the Year for 2015 following his performance in the 2014-15 WRSS, where he was also the leading tackler in the series.

Competition is tough and I wish our 7s guru all the best! We need to join hands and campaign for Jerry at home and in overseas.

I have voted for Jerry and I plead with every Fijian to vote for him. Our vote will make a difference. Vinaka vakalevu Jerry! God bless you!

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