Valetini adapts to Drua surroundings, yet to grasp iTaukei lingo and loves curry chicken

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Kemu Valetini at the Fijian Drua Home Base in Legalega Nadi. Picture: REINAL CHAND

The man who kicked the winning penalty to seal the victory for Drua in his debut game against the Crusaders in Round 3 of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season, Kemu Valetini has marked his name as one of the most adored rugby players in the hearts of many Fijians.

“A solid no.10”, “a natural first five-eight in his own right”, “a rising star” are some of the many compliments he’s received on social media from those who have watched him play right from at a semi-professional level to donning the Drua jersey.

Born and bred in Melbourne, Australia, the 29-year-old from Galoa Village on Kadavu began his rugby career for the Melbourne Rising in 2018, before joining the Valladoid Rugby Asociación in 2019-2020 representing Valladoid RAC in Spain.

It was in Manly when he impressed the coaches and got picked by the Drua on a short-term contract.

Trained with the full Rebels side while in Australia, Kemu has managed to acquire what he has gathered so far in terms of rugby knowledge and experience with the help of good people and aims to be consistently better not only professionally but personally as well.

What he is not good at? Speaking the iTaukei language.

“Yeah, so I grew up in Australia so obviously English is the spoken language but our dad would speak Fijian to us, but we couldn’t pick up the language,” he laughs.

“I’ve been living in Fiji for almost a year and a half now and I still haven’t stepped foot on Kadavu but I’m planning on it though.

“Just need to find the time to.”

So far, everything is starting to gel well and Kemu is excited to start the season. But what makes him, him?

“I love a good chicken curry,” he laughs again.

“I love wearing loose clothes, nothing too tight. “I was pretty adventurous when I was a kid. I was kind of, always out there but at the same time, an extrovert as well…sorta haha.

“I would spend my time just visiting friends’ houses and just chilling with them.”

When asked who the cheeky one in the team is, Kemu agreed with the squad and management.

“Peni Matawalu, hahaha!” In addition to scoring tries, kicking can also be the difference between winning and losing a game, and for Kemu, it means serious business. “It’s the biggest part of what I can bring to the team. Regardless of the outcomes, kicking for me is a big part.

“And the goal I have is to take it week by week. Can’t look too far forward in this competition and just focus on staying fit and healthy. But most importantly, I’m just truly blessed and grateful in this position I’m in.”

Advice: “Listen to your parents. Growing up I thought I could figure things out on my own but as you grow up, you live, and you learn. But for now, to the kids reading this, listen to your parents. They are the ones who know you better and have and will be supportive of you just like how my parents have been with me.”

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