Unexpected Waratahs family reunion

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A community visit doubled as somewhat of a family reunion for Waratahs Taqele Naiyaravoro and Kalivati Tawake this week.

Naiyaravoro and Tawake’s young cousin Toma Naivalu was among a group of deaf and hard of hearing children who visited Waratahs training this week.

The trio are from the Fijian village of Nacalu, with Naivalu’s father emigrating to Australia and this was the first time Naivalu had met his rugby-playing cousins in the flesh.

“I was just speaking to dad last night about him coming in and I was looking forward to it, especially since it was the first time I've actually seen him since they moved to Australia,” Naiyaravoro said.

“It is incredibly special, because it was a big struggle coming out of Fiji to where we are now.

Taqele Naiyaravoro, Kalivati Tawake and Toma Naivalu together at the Waratahs. Photo: Rugby AU/Karen Watson“It's always good to give back to the kids, especially seeing your family come and be able to see you train.

“Normally, they watch you on TV so it's really good showing them how there's opportunities around so it's really good.”

The children learned some rugby skills and drills, at the same venue where international deaf rugby players will descend on in the next fortnight, in the first World Deaf Rugby Sevens competition.

It was a rare chance for the children to experience rugby, with many facing barriers to playing regular club sport.

World Deaf Rugby vice-chairman and Australian deaf rugby player, Nick Marlor, has been a big part of organising the competition, and relished the chance to share the game with a new generation.

Marlor, who started playing rugby at 14 and discovered deaf rugby in 2004, and becoming a major advocate for the sport.

Students from the Royal Institute of the Deaf and Blind were at Waratahs training. Photo: Rugby AU/Karen Watson“I got into it in 2004, with my brother who is also hard of hearing as well,” he said.

“He was involved in playing and he happened to find out about deaf rugby, so we thought let's give it a shot.”

All of the players must be severely hard of hearing, with a measure of 85 decibels, equating to severe hearing loss, with players relying on hand signals and extra eye contact to communicate in games.

Australia will also play a Test against Wales at the end of the week-long competition, that involves 11 men’s teams and three women’s teams.

The World Deaf Rugby Sevens kicks off on Sunday April 22, running until April 28. More information here.