Waqa stamps mark

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Etonia Waqa breaks a tackle during the Fijian Drua training at Albert Park in Suvqa, on Fri 09 Feb 2024. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

In a thrilling turn of events for the Fijian Drua’s Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific season in 2023, Etonia Waqa is now emerging as a standout player despite being a late injury call-up to the squad in round 11 against the Hurricanes.

Hailing from Lomati Village on Kadavu, with familial ties to Tovu Village in Totoya, Lau, Waqa’s journey to the professional rugby stage is one marked by determination and resilience.

The 24-year-old’s hard work has earned him a starting spot in the Drua’s 2024 season opener against the Blues in Auckland today.

He will play blindside flanker. Growing up, he showcased his athletic prowess by participating in both soccer and rugby.

His formative years saw him attend Queen Victoria School until Year 11, after which he ventured to New Zealand, spending two years at St. Kentigern College.

It was during his time in New Zealand that Waqa’s talent caught the eyes of selectors, leading to his representation of the Bay of Plenty and subsequent call-ups to the main squad in 2022 and 2023.

“I played both rugby and soccer, and it wasn’t until I was in fifth grade that I decided to focus on rugby,” he said. “When I moved to New Zealand, it became more serious, and after two years at Saint Kents, I tried so hard to get into the Bay of Plenty club and play in the NPC.” His motivation stems deeply from his family, particularly his mother, who became his pillar of strength following the passing of his father.

Her unwavering support and sacrifices have fuelled Waqa’s drive to excel in his rugby career.

“My mum has been my biggest motivation, especially after losing my father, which was a tough time for us, but she was always there, providing.

“I’m thankful to be contracted with the Drua and be here at home, so I can support her and be close to the family.”

For this new season of Super Rugby, he aims to prove his worth to the coaches and showcase the full extent of his talents on the field. While his preferred position is at lock forward, this season sees him embracing a new challenge as a flanker.

Undeterred by the transition, he is prepared to face off against seasoned veterans in this position from opposing teams, demonstrating his adaptability and tenacity.

For aspiring rugby players, Waqa’s advice is simple yet profound: listen to your parents, pray for your dreams, and trust that everything will fall into place.

His journey serves as an inspiration to young athletes, highlighting the importance of perseverance, faith, and familial support in achieving one’s goals.

“The main thing is obedience – obedience to your parents and your elders. You can only go far in life if you listen and obey your parents.”

The Drua versus Blues match kicks off at 3.35pm.

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