Big moment for lad

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Ready to rumble with the big boys … Motikiai Murray at the Fijian Drua home base in Nadi. Picture: FIJIAN DRUA

UP until Swire Shipping Fijian Drua head coach Mick Byrne made the announcement yesterday, not much was known about the latest pick — 20-year-old Motikiai Murray.

The Fiji under-20 captain’s inclusion as openside flanker in this Saturday’s historic clash against the Crusaders in the Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific quarter-fi nals is a dream come true for the Lovoni, Levuka, lad.

“It is a big moment for me being called up to make my debut in our first quarter-final appearance ever in only our second year in the competition,” said Murray.

“There will be a lot of expectations on me and I will try and match the work rate of the other forwards.

“Playing against the Super Rugby champions won’t be easy and we know we will have to work harder than ever before.”

The former Ratu Kadavulevu School student from Lovoni, Ovalau, said it would be tough to fill the shoes of his role model, Joseva Tamani, who is joining Pro D2 side, Colomiers.

Tamani scored the runaway try in the Drua’s 41-17 trouncing of the Queensland Reds at the HFC Bank Stadium last Saturday.

“It is a privilege for me to wear the N 7 on the night and it will be tough to fill the shoes of Joe Tamani.

“He has been a role model to me and it’s been an honour to play alongside him as we’re from the same village.

“I will try and carry on where Joe left off with in his last game for the Drua.”

Murray, who was named earlier in the week to captain the Fiji under-20 side in the World Rugby Championship in South Africa later this month, hopes his performance tomorrow will earn him a spot to be a regular in the Drua side come the 2024 Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific season.

“I’m looking forward to maintaining my spot in the Drua squad for next season and I would love to be a part of the Fiji Water Flying Fijians team too if given a chance.”

His father, Philip Murray Sr, said divine intervention and a fierce determination to make his mark in rugby was what drove his son’s outstanding achievements so far.

He said even while watching the Flying Fijians or sevens sides on TV, Motikiai always told his family that
one day he would wear the white jumper.

“We have always supported him — from his primary school days until today,” Murray Sr said.

“Even though he was still in the development squad we would travel from Ovalau to support the Drua.

“And even when he asked to skip university studies so he could concentrate on rugby, we stood by him.

“All children have different talents so I encouraged him to take the path he thought was best and to fulfil his dream.

“My only words of advice was – train hard, listen and always remain humble.”

Motikiai’s rugby career began in Year 4 when he played in the Milo Kaji competition at Levuka Public Primary School.

It continued when he was in Year 9 at Levuka Public Secondary School for term 1 and at Ratu Kadavulevu School for term 2 in 2016 to Year 13 in 2020 where he started to show form.

In 2021, he played in the Suva under-19 side before he was appointed captain for the Fiji under-20 team then the Drua development and Fiji Warriors sides before his debut with the Drua.

When asked if Motikiai was ready for the game of his career – his dream debut run in the clash against the Crusaders – Murray Sr was more than confident in his son and the Fijian Drua’s chances.

“Motikiai is a hard-working player, he has a lot of self belief, he is persistent and has a never say die attitude. He is ready for the big day.”

Whatever the outcome in Christchurch this Saturday, one this is for sure, Motikiai will not walk out onto the field alone.

His five brothers, two sisters, mom Laisa, maternal relatives from Ono-i-Lau,

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