It’s a classic tale of love, but when Fijian under-20s rugby union captain Vatiliai Tuidraki moved to Canberra to be closer to his long-term girlfriend, there was more than one happy ending.
Tuidraki has spent the past four seasons playing in Auckland, but believes making the move to Australia will help push himself to play at the next level.
“I just thought that my rugby wasn’t going anywhere so I just thought I should challenge myself and come here and give it a shot in Australia,” Tuidraki said.
“Having my girlfriend here definitely made the decision a lot easier, especially with my parents living back in Fiji – to be able to come here and be with my girlfriends really helps.”
Tuidraki has linked up with Gungahlin Eagles and has spent the past two weeks in the club’s colts side.
Eagles coach Daniel Atkinson said he was ecstatic that the club has been able to get Tuidraki across from New Zealand.
“He has played two colts games for us, and last weekend he came off the bench and played 20 minutes in first grade and this week he will be coming on in first grade again,” Atkinson said.
“He is an outstanding athlete, he’s quick on his feet, he has got very smooth hands and he injects himself onto the ball really well.
“As soon as he catches the ball he is already at top speed.”
Atkinson was not only full of praise for the way that Tuidraki goes about his football, he also believes the inside centre’s personality has had an immediate impact around the club.
“He definitely has ability, not only as a player but as person, he is just a wonderful kid.
“He [Tuidraki] is very commending of others, he is always getting around the other boys and patting them on the back and telling them they have done a good job.”
Both coach and player can see the move to Canberra as beneficial for Tuidraki’s future with a spot in the ACT Brumbies squad well and truly within his sights.
“My ultimate goal will definitely be trying to get into the Brumbies squad as well as maybe wearing an international jersey for Fiji,” Tuidraki said.
The Eagles will hope the addition of Tuidraki can help them bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing eight-point loss to the Royals when they take on Queanbeyan this Saturday at David Campese final