Two names synonymous with rugby in Fiji were announced as the official Ambassadors to powerful Sport for Development program, Get into Rugby PLUS, last month.
Program partners, Fiji government officials, coaches, players and head teachers gathered at Albert Park, Suva, to embrace Rusila Nagasau and Jerry Tuwai as part of the Get into Rugby PLUS family.
Both Nagasau and Tuwai are household names in Fiji and among rugby fans globally on account of their outstanding achievements and longevity in Fiji’s national women’s and men’s rugby sevens teams respectively. Olympic medallists and national captains, they are also regarded as exceptional role models on and off the field, making them ideal Ambassadors for Get into Rugby PLUS.
Get into Rugby PLUS is a flagship Sport for Development program that embeds life skills learning with rugby union to promote positive behaviours, support gender equality, and prevent violence against women, girls and boys.
The program is jointly developed and implemented by Fiji Rugby Union, Oceania Rugby, UN Women and ChildFund Rugby, and is currently delivered in both Fiji and Samoa.
Get into Rugby PLUS is co-funded by the Australian Government’s Team Up program through its partnership with Rugby Australia and Oceania Rugby; by UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office, through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership), funded primarily by the European Union, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and UN Women; and ChildFund Rugby.
Fiji Rugby CEO, John O’Connor, in announcing the Ambassadors said;
“It would be hard to find two better role models than Rusila and Jerry for a program like Get into Rugby PLUS, that promotes good character, respect and equality. We are extremely proud and honoured to have them represent Get into Rugby PLUS, Fiji Rugby Union and the program’s partners.”
Olympic hero and Fijiana Sevens Captain, Rusila Nagasau, is excited to become a part of the Get into Rugby PLUS Family, saying;
“I’m so happy to be an Ambassador for Get into Rugby PLUS. It has done so much for encouraging more girls to play rugby and for women to coach. But even more importantly, it is changing mindsets of girls and boys around gender equality, and that there is no place for violence, ever.”
Jerry Tuwai, Fiji Sevens captain and former World Rugby Sevens player of the year is excited to get involved in the program, saying;
“I love that Get into Rugby PLUS focuses on the rugby values like respect, integrity and self-discipline. It doesn’t matter how fast you run, or how many tries you score, you need these qualities to succeed in rugby, as a player or a coach, and in life. The values that guide our game are what we live by. By living by these values we can help promote equality and end violence against women.”
Get into Rugby PLUS has been delivered in Fiji since 2018, and in 2022 has grown to boast nearly 50 coaches leading over 1000 girls and boys, across 36 school and community sites across Fiji annually.
With a commitment to 50% females and 50% males among both its coaches and players, there is evidence that girls and boys in the program are proactively promoting gender equality and reducing the use of violence in their lives. Participating students report to have greater knowledge and support to identify, reduce and report harassment and violence.
Evaluation shows that both girls and boys achieve significant improvements in their rugby skills and confidence, and overwhelmingly, feel safer and more respected and supported for playing rugby.
Supported with significant training in rugby coaching and life skills facilitation, many of the program’s coaches assert the transformative influence it has had upon them – that it has changed how they coach, teach, and even their own relationships. Many have become proactive change agents for gender equality and ending violence.
Oceania Rugby Board Member, Cathy Wong, reflected on the influence sport and sporting idols;
“Sport can be an effective tool to challenge the preconceived ideas about the roles and abilities of girls and boys, women and men. Through their outstanding personal achievements, Rusila and Jerry have shown what is possible. Oceania Rugby and all our program partners are thrilled to have them represent the program and what we are collectively striving for.”
The program partners were on hand to celebrate the announcement with the Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes, UN Women’s Shazia Usman, and ChildFund Rugby’s Makelesi Bulikiobo presenting gifts to Nagasau and Tuwai.
UN Women’s Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Technical Advisor and Pacific Partnership Programme Manager, Abigail Erikson, sees the welcoming of the Ambassadors as an opportunity to amplify the program’s objectives.
“We are already proud of the impact that Get into Rugby PLUS is having on the lives its coaches, players and communities in Fiji and Samoa. Having such outstanding and much-loved Ambassadors as Rusila and Jerry will heighten the message and importance of addressing gender inequality and violence against women and girls through sport.”
Rusila Nagasau – Highlights
- Tokyo Olympics Bronze Medal, Captain, Fiji Flagbearer (with Jerry Tuwai), Oceania Closing Ceremony representative
- Rio Olympics, HSBC World Series, World Cup 2013
- Debut: 2007
Jerry Tuwai – Highlights
- Tokyo Olympics Gold Medal, Captain, Fiji Flagbearer (with Rusila Nagasau)
- Rio Olympic Gold
- 2019 Fiji Sportsman of the Year
- 2019 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year
- Debut: 2014
Check out the video from the launch event here.
Article adapted from Oceania Rugby website.