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'It hasn't come easy': Drua hero Kemu Valetini opens up on tough '10 years'

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

Fijian Drua flyhalf Kemu Valetini will hold a special place in rugby history after kicking the winning penalty goal against the champion Crusaders in Lautoka last weekend.


Having come on for his Super Rugby Pacific debut in the 80th minute, the fairytale finish couldn’t have been scripted any better for both Valetini and the Drua.

Valetini later described his debut as “unreal”, as the Drua shocked the rugby world with the 25-24 win over the defending Super Rugby Pacific champions.

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The significance of the clutch kick will go down in history as one of the greatest moments in the Fijian Rugby.

But Valetini’s journey to that now famous moment has been anything but smooth sailing.

The 28-year-old, who is the older brother of Wallaby Rob Valetini, has had to overcome injury after injury en route to his Super Rugby debut.

In his own words, “it hasn’t been easy.”


“It’s probably been about a solid 10 years that I’ve been in and out of contention of ‘am I going to make it? Am I going to not make it?’ I’m 28 now so you start to think of life after footy,” Valetini told RugbyPass.

“You start to doubt yourself if you’re going to make it because as you get older, teams start to look for the next generation to come through.

“For myself, just dealing with a lot of injuries; knees, shoulders and just when you think you’re coming back and you’re feeling good, something else happens.

“It just been obstacle after obstacle for the last 10 years. Probably the last two years I’ve had a solid year without any injuries so that’s helped my progression.


“It hasn’t been easy.”

Valetini played with the Melbourne Rising during the 2018 National Rugby Championship campaign, and was given the opportunity to train with the Rebels during the following preseason.

But disaster struck – a knee injury brought an end to his time in Melbourne.


From there, the playmaker pursued an opportunity in Spain, but had to come back to Australia early due to the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.

Another knee operation forced him out of “pretty much” the entire 2020 campaign, and the 2021 season was interrupted by Covid once again.

Then, after years of persistence, Valetini finally hit his stride with in the northern beaches of Sydney – impressing with Manly in the prestigious Shute Shield.

But amongst all this, Valetini did consider giving up on his Super Rugby dream.

“I just thought that maybe it’s time to start thinking of settling down and working a job, try building a future after rugby,” he added.

“But in my head, it never went away for me. Even with all the injuries that I had, in my head, I always had it in my head that I’d make it one day.”

Valetini realised his dream during last Saturday’s stunning win over the Crusaders, and kicked the winning penalty in the 83rd minute.

“To do that against the Crusaders, the defending champions and have my debut like that… ultimately winning the game for Fijian Drua was unreal.

“I probably won’t forget (it) for a very long time.”

Valetini has been named in the No. 22 jersey for the Fijian Drua’s trip to Brisbane, where they’ll take on the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon.


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RUGBYPASS+ The major Six Nations concern for Wales and England ahead of RWC 2023 The major Six Nations concern for Wales and England ahead of RWC 2023