Former Fiji U21 captain Samueli Dawai Naulu died in a car crash in France on Saturday. He was 31.
Hailing from Narewa in Nadi, Dawai attended Ratu Navula School and played loose forward for his Nadi club side Western Marine. In April 2004, he captained the Fiji side at the U21 RWC qualifiers in Apia where Fiji went down to both Samoa and Tonga.
Many of Dawai’s team-mates in that U21 side went on to gain full Test honours… Netani Talei, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Waisale Suka, Dan Ligairi, Sireli Ledua, Malakai Ravulo, Waisale Vatuvoka and the late Maleli Kunavore.
And with such a talented team, the disappointments of that tour prompted a lot of questions aimed towards the FRU on their development work, which saw a major revamp in 2005.
Dawai featured for Nadi 10 times in the 2004 season, mostly at No.8 but starting at wing on one occasion. He played in the Telecom Fiji Cup semi-final against Tailevu when Nadi went down 23-26 at Churchill Park, and also the Sullivan-Farebrother Trophy win a week later when Nadi hit their season’s high with a 34-18 win at Ratu Cakobau Park over holders Tailevu. His lone try for Nadi came against Manasa Bari’s Tavua in the TFC quarter-finals.
At the end of the season, Dawai was selected for the Fiji ‘A’ side to play NZ Divisional XV in Nausori, a game which they won 16-13 a few days after the Kiwis had beaten the Flying Fijians in Suva.
He started the 2005 season in the Western Crusaders squad for the Colonial Cup but soon left for France to join Perpignan, who moved him to wing.
The Nadi native enjoyed two strong seasons with Perpignan, scoring 11 tries in 45 matches. However, a serious injury followed by a botched operation put a halt to his top flight career.
Dawai made his comeback in 2010 for Limoges in the Federale 1 competition, and joined Bergerac in Federale 3 last year.
Born 5 January 1982, he died 30 March 2013 when the car he was driving hit a tree.
Our thoughts go out to his family.