Forces prominent pair, husband and wife duo, Manasa and Martha Mataele, reflect on their shared love of rugby, the importance of upholding their cultural traditions, and their partnership flourishing in the West.
Manasa is from Vanuavatu, Lau, a small village in Fiji that neighbours Tonga. Growing up in Suva, Fiji's mainland, he admits he has constantly been exposed to rugby, often with a ball in hand.
Martha is New Zealand born and identifies as Tongan, with an array of cultures represented in her family's bloodline.
"The village where my dad is from is Ma'ufanga, on the main Island of Tonga. On my dad's side, I have Samoan and Fijian blood. On my Mum’s side, we have Samoan, Fijian and Italian ties. However, I do identify as full Tongan," Martha expressed.
The two wed in August 2021 in Christchurch, honouring their heritage throughout their traditional engagement and ceremony.
"We had an engagement shoot where we wore our traditional attire. This was incredibly special," Martha expressed.
"At the altar of our wedding, we had our traditional mats to stand on, and many cultural ceremonial ties were incorporated. It was a mix of us; we had Fijian and Tongan dancers; it was an unforgettable day for us and our families."
After seven years of living in different cities worldwide, the Mataele's now both call West Australia home. While Perth is a long way from their origins, the newly married couple have grown to love what they are building here.
"For me personally, I love Perth. I have been telling her all about it for the last two years. When she got here, she loved it straight away," Manasa expressed.
"The incredible support from the Fijian community has also helped the transition. The Fijian community organised a traditional feed for my first time here and welcomed me. It made me feel like I was home."
"We met when I was 19, and Martha was just 17, so to be back together and play for the same club is special for our rugby and to start our married life and do normal couple things."
Living together for the time with no flight 'home' booked and with the suitcase firmly packed away, the Mataele's are happily adjusting to this content feeling.
"The separation and long distance are tough, but it's definitely sweeter right now and just makes the sacrifices worth it. I'm excited, this is our first big move together and there is no countdown," gleamed Martha.
"In our whole seven years together, there has not been a time where we have lived in the same town. Majority of our relationship has been long distance, all for the sake of rugby."
"This my new home. This is my new base."
The 2022 Nathan Sharpe dual medallist continues his dominance on the wing, attesting his form to the return of his wife. Stating that she drives his performance on the field.
"It shows how much she means to me and my career; I told her a couple of weeks ago that I don't want to be away from her anymore as she's a big part of my career moving forward," Manasa admitted.
"Having her here makes me forget about the stresses of training or expectations. It's really nice to come home now and see her there. She's like my safe place, where I feel right at home. As long as I have her, I am fine for life."
The strong family skillset has strengthened the move to Perth with Martha's sister Atlanta Lolohea and Manasa's brother Rupeni also on the Force's books.
"Having them here definitely makes it feel more like home, like it doesn't even feel like I'm in another country because they are here," Martha professed.
"We've [Martha and Atlanta] spent a lot of time together because of rugby back in New Zealand, so it's kind of just trickled on here," Martha continued.
"After two surgeries in two years, he [Rupeni] is frustrated. All I can do is support him. I can’t wait to play with him and for him to play, because I know the potential that he's got. I've always told people he has the ability to be better than me; just has to be given the opportunity," Manasa asserted.
The pair's goals are clear after the Super seasons to represent their home country on the biggest stage.
"Fiji is the goal for this year and to represent my home country at a World Cup in France. To do that, I just need to play consistent rugby and be getting more game time. So I will just try and be at my best, really," Manasa affirmed.
"I'd love to play for Tonga in a few years," Martha acknowledged.
The Force is thrilled to foster a powerful partnership and look forward to celebrating their strong cultural heritages in RD12 at HBF Park.