Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Whenever one hears the surname Musunamasi, rugby league pops up. However, being actively involved in the sport was something Peni Musunamasi never seriously considered. In fact, he initially wanted to become an aircraft engineer although his older brother and cousins donned the national jumper in rugby.
Born on June 17, 1963, Peni is the youngest of three children. His father was doctor Kemueli and his mother, a nurse, was Alanieta. Originally from Naioti, Yale in Kadavu, Peni had a fairly simple upbringing. His father's hectic work commitments meant a lot of travelling time for the family. Despite this, sport has been a family affair for the Musunamasis.
"The longest place I've lived in is Rakiraki but this was when I was a bit older. Growing up, I have seen how my dad helped people not only in the health aspect but also in sports. He was the rugby coach of the provinces we moved to," he said.
"When I was younger, I wanted to be an aircraft engineer because I thought the role and responsibilities of aircraft engineers were very important. That was my aim but somewhere down the line that did not happen."
Peni believes people should have an open mind when doing anything. He said with dedication and commitment to one's aims and goals in life, anything is possible.
With a vague memory of his initial days in primary school, Peni attended Intermediate school at Adi Maopa in 1974. He then went on to start Form One at Ratu Kadavulevu School.
However, two years later when he was in Form Three, Peni did not go to school. His parents were reluctant to buy him new uniforms after he kept losing them.
Eventually, he was put into boarding school where he spent two years at Queen Victoria.
Peni said life at boarding school was probably the first taste of being independent. He said from the start of Form One, they were expected to pick up after themselves. This meant washing their own clothes and helping out with plantation work.
"When I reached QVS in 1979, my older brother was there. Life at boarding school was a good experience. There were times when we got too independent but the hardships at boarding school made us work hard to live a better life.
"There are quite a number of people who have come out of QVS and have done well in life. In school, I belonged to Bau House and the catchphrase was unity never fails. This is one message I always try to instigate into the lives of our players."
He said education is very important and although he was not able to complete Form Six, he learned the value of hard work. He is glad to have gone through the difficulties of surviving on one's own.
Rugby league
Although he is the chairman for the Fiji National Rugby League, Peni seldom played rugby when he was in school. He was physically small and when he did play the game, he represented the second team.
Peni comes from a family of rugby players. His older brother Ilaitia Naqau is the Fiji Bati team manager as well as a former national rep. His first cousins have also represented Fiji on several occasions. Even his first cousin, the late Kemueli Musunamasi represented Fiji against the British Lions in 1977.
As timid and tiny back then, Peni always had an interest to represent the country in sports. He realised if he did not have the rugby flare and talent to play the sport, he could do something behind the scenes to help in the development of ruggers. "When I first saw the way rugby league was played, I knew this was a game for Fijians.
"At the time, I was the assistant manager for the Nadera Panthers team.
"Rugby league started in 1992 then. I have seen that through this sport, players have been able to get good lives.
"It has helped a few families now overseas. I owe a lot to rugby league. Being part of rugby league in Fiji is a give and take field.
"Since my involvement in the sport, rugby league has taught me a lot especially about responsibilities.
"I noticed not many people care about responsibilities, but being in a managerial position responsibilities are important especially the welfare of the players."
When he is not in the chairman's seat, Peni is the acting advisor technical for the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission.
He has been with the organisation for almost 20 years now.
Fast facts
Married to Ulamila who is from Vanuabalavu.
Has four children, three sons and one daughter
FNRL chairman in 2002, 2006-2008
Bati team manager on six occasions
Was club manager of the year in 1996
2005 FASANOC Volunteer of the Year
2007 FASANOC Administrator of the Year
10 things about him
His father is his mentor
Favourite drink - Water
Loves his wife's chopsuey
Loves to spend time with family
Prefers to listen to Dokidoki Gospel
Favourite movie is Gladiator
Considers Russell Crowe his favourite actor
Believes his cousin Ponipate Naqau is an inspiration for ruggers
His mother is from Mua, Batiki, Lomaiviti
Paternal grandmother is Tongan from Hapai in Hihifo. and his father was born there.