Former Fiji Rugby International and Matuku born prop Joeli Veitayaki. Photo:SUPPLIED.
Former Fiji Rugby International and Matuku born prop Joeli Veitayaki, was given a special invitation to attend the funeral of former New Zealand Rugby legend, the late Sir Colin Meads in Te Kuitia, a small town in the north of the King Country region of the North Island of New Zealand.
Mr Veitayaki described his greatest Rugby mentor as a “Supremely competitive family man who was passionate about rugby, and someone who was always willing to share his knowledge and love of the game”.
Sir Colin, who in 1999 was named New Zealand’s greatest rugby player of the 20th Century, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year. The former lock died in hospital in his home town of Te Kuiti on August 20. He was 81.
Being the only Fijian rugby representative at the funeral, Mr Veitayaki also expressed his gratefulness to the family of the late Sir Colin Meads.
“I want to thank the Meads Family especially to Lady Verna ,Stan ,Karen, Kevin, Rhonda, Glynn and Shelley for inviting me to the funeral, and it is indeed an honor to also be representing the past and present Fiji national rugby players whom the Late Sir Colin Meads may have been an inspiration to, the Pinetree was such a rugby gentleman and that is why we are all here to bid him farewell” Mr Veitayaki said.
Amongst the VIP’s were New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, Leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, Government officials, present and past All Blacks including families and friends of the late NZ Rugby legend.
Joeli added that the late Sir Colin had greatly assisted our Pacific Islands boys that had turned up to play for King Country Waitete Rugby Clubs in the 1990.
“He was always on hand to provide assistance and advice to all of us during those early days, and that is why we highly regard him as a Father of NZ Rugby”, Joeli concluded.
It was also through the mentoring of the late Sir Colin Meads that enabled Joeli Veitayaki to play competitive rugby in New Zealand beginning with the Tokoroa RFC of Waikato in 1990.
Prior to the New Zealand stint, Mr Veitayaki was a former Island Zone rep from his Island of Matuku from 1985 to 1996 before joining Nuku Rugby Club in Rewa from 1986 to 1987 and the St John Marist Rugby club in 1988 and 1989.
He debuted for Fiji against the New Zealand Maori in Christchurch on June 4, 1994 and also played at the 1999 and 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Veitayaki also played for the Waikato Chiefs in 1996 and made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues against the Sharks in 1999 including a stint with Irish club Ulster .
Mr Veitayaki currently resides in Whangarei, 2 hours North of Auckland.