Proud mother off to see her son play for the Flying Fijians squad.
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
It’s a long way to France from the idyllic shores of Te Araroa for Vicky Nukunuku.
The proud mother has her bags packed and ready to go for her first overseas trip to the home of delicious pastries and the iconic Eiffel Tower to witness her son play at the Rugby World Cup.
Nukunuku’s son, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, is part of the Flying Fijians squad that is hopeful of creating history in France when they take on the likes of Wales and Australia.
“He’s a beast, he’s a strong player, he’s like a workhorse like the rest of the team. So, he looks out for his teammates and they look out for him,” she said about her son.
However, she was assuming she would have to watch from home with her trip of a lifetime only coming about when the close-knit Te Araroa community raised funds to get her on the plane.
They pulled together $18,000 in a little over a week, without her knowing.
“One of the guys had come to my house to tell me that they were sending me to the World Cup. I was absolutely speechless. I didn’t know what to say. It took me a week to get over the shock,” Nukunuku said as she waited for her flight at Auckland Airport.
The 25-year-old Crikidaveta, who was raised in Te Araroa by his mother and hails from Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Porou and the village of Nabaitavo, Naitasiri through his father, made his test debut for the Flying Fijians earlier this year.
Cirikidaveta has quite an extensive resume in rugby since making a name for himself playing for St Kentigern College’s 1st XV in Auckland, on a scholarship after playing for the Ngāti Porou East Coast U16 side.
He was picked up by the Crusaders academy and selected in the NZ Māori Under 18 development side in 2016.
Capable of playing in the loose forwards, Cirikidaveta has established himself as a lock with the Tasman Mako, winning two National Provincial Championships.
Connecting with his roots
Despite his impressive performances for the Mako, he never got the opportunity to play Super Rugby with the Crusaders.
He was given an opportunity in 2020 with new Super Rugby side Fijian Drua where he was able to connect with his i-Taukei (Indigenous Fijian) roots for the first time.
“The Flying Fijians have a wonderful squad, just the atmosphere. They are very spiritual, and I love that for my baby,” Nukunuku said.
Hero image: Vicky Nukunuku's son, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, is part of the Flying Fijians squad. Photo / Merewai Durutalo