Newcastle Falcons & Fijian winger, Vereniki Goneva shared about his Rugby beginnings and how the national team is defined by a faith in Jesus.
So Vereniki, you’ve just joined Newcastle Falcons, how are you settling in?
I am settling in alright, all of the boys and the staff are making it easier for me. I live in a quite place not too far from the training ground so everything is alright. It is a little bit different compared with Leicester where I was before, I find it easier up here to talk to people.
So looking back now to when you were starting out, was pro Rugby always the plan?
Well I was born and raised in Fiji, with my family, I have two sisters and a brother. For me when I was growing up I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I helped my parents with the crops and helped them farm. I started playing rugby in the village and then I realised that I can play so I decided to work hard and train hard. After this I made progress everyday.
With Rugby being huge back home in Fiji, was it tough to stand out?
Yes, in Fiji everyone plays, it is like a national sport back home but where I was in my village, it was far away from town which made life harder. It was hard for coaches to spot me because of where I was playing so I just played hard and played well, true to myself.
Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?
Most of us back at home believe in Jesus and everyone knows that God is there, that God is the source of everything. So my faith is a big part of my rugby, a big part of me getting this far and I believe in God’s plan. Personally I believe that we have many plans of our own but only God’s plan prevails, that is a principle of walking with God. I just give praise to him and try to be thankful.
You’ve represented your country, the Fijian team seems to be a really special group of players with a great bond?
Playing for Fiji is really different than playing for Newcastle or Leicester, at home everyone believes in God and over here in England people know God but it’s different. When I am with Fiji we sing before training, pray after training and have a devotion time. We come together to hear the word of God and we believe that God is really a part of our team. We can prepare mentally and physically but we need to spiritually too. I just try to play here and show teammates how I train and show them my faith.
In your pre-match routine, do you have any time with God?
Yes, I always pray at home before I leave for the game, for me I like to sit there before we go out and think to myself that everything is already done, it’s about being thankful.
With the travel and hectic calendar, is it tough to get to church?
I do sometimes get to Church, we go to Hillsong church and if not we stay home with friends and family because your belief is in your heart and mind. God is everywhere. We do try to come together unless I have a game.
You had four great years at Leicester Tigers, any stand out memory?
I have good memories from playing there in the Premiership, one year I won player of the year so I was really blessed and so privileged to get one of those awards. When I was there there were so many great players from abroad and guys who played for England too. So to be a part of that team and train with them, I always thank God for that because he gave everything for me. Now being in Newcastle, I have the same mindset but it’s just with different players.
Who is the best player that you have ever played with?
I would say Manu Tuilagi from Leicester Tigers.
Niki, you’ve played both sevens and full fifteen now, which format do you prefer?
Obviously I started playing sevens but I am just sticking with fifteens at the moment, you have to run a lot, be quick and agile to play sevens. At the moment I am just enjoying playing fifteens.
What do you do in your spare time away from the game?
Most of the time I just like to chill at home, I will sleep a little bit and watch some tv.