Fiji Rugby has achieved another milestone in terms of promoting women in rugby with one of it’s female staff completing an extra ordinary achievement.
This time former Media Officer and currently the Fiji Rugby Logistic Officer Talei Thomas has been accredited by World Rugby as the first female Match Commissioner in the Pacific.
Fiji Rugby Chief Executive John O’Connor said, “We are pleased that Talei has now come on board as a Match Commissioner and she has been doing a great job as a match commissioner in the Skipper Cup this season.”
“Fiji Rugby strongly believes in promoting women in rugby in Fiji and we are working really hard to create a rugby environment in Fiji which promotes equal opportunities and equity for our players, coaches, staff and support staff” O’Connor said.
It’s been a long and exciting journey for Talei who with the help of Fiji Rugby and its Operations Manager Sale Sorovaki and Oceania Rugby have managed to achieve this goal.
Talei said “It was an emotional and exciting moment for me when I was told that I had passed the final assessment and would be accredited as the first female Match Commissioner not only in Fiji but also the Pacific.
“While it was a tough and tiring journey, physically, mentally and emotionally, I felt proud not only for me and my family, but for Fiji Rugby.
This achievement shows that Fiji Rugby and Oceania Rugby including World Rugby has set a benchmark for Women in Fiji and around the Pacific and it should be an encouragement for them to pursue sports administrative opportunities available outside their comfort zone.”
Reflecting back, Talei said the journey to become Match Commissioner started early this year.
“Currently as the Logistics Officer for the Fiji Rugby, I look after travel logistics for the teams, staff and management of the Fiji Rugby Union, which includes Visas, flights and assisting the Team Managers with Logistical support leading up and during their local and international tournaments.
COVID 19 led to no flights, then no rugby competitions which meant no logistical support needed” she said.
Talei added “When Skipper kicked off there was a need for more Match Commissioners, and I saw it as an opportunity to learn and become one.
With the encouragement from Operations Manager, Sale Sorovaki, Operations staff Ben Takubu and FRU CEO, Mr John O’Connor I was able to start learning how to become a Match Commissioner from Round 1, the 25th of July 2020.
It was a new and frightening experience for me being on the field as a Match Commissioner and having to deal with issues in and around the Field of Play which included the teams, their management, Match Officials, Medical Day Staff, the Field of Play, Changerooms and so forth.”
She further explained “Following my practical assessment as a Match Manager, and Match Commissioner by Talemo Waqa at Round 6 of the Skipper Cup competition, Lautoka vs Suva, I had to then tackle the theory part of this role.
This included 4 online World Rugby Exams and 9 assignments.
It took a while for me to complete, as there was a lot of reading and analysing to do, but I finally completed all of them.
This I did, with the help of my co-workers and the coaches, as I would ask them questions, based on their experiences on and off the field, which assisted me in completing my assignments and exams.
Throughout it all, there was constant encouragement from those around me, my family and co-workers, urging me to complete it.”
Talei who joined Fiji Rugby in 2012 said being a Match Commissioner is not an easy task because you are not dealing only with teams but also the other important factors around it.
She added “This is a role not to be taken lightly, as it involves a lot of issues on and off the field.
“Some of the challenges faced is the ground are weather conditions, incorrect ground markings, teams not following the Run Sheet and arriving late plus teams arriving without their kit just to name a few.
“A lot of people don’t understand the role of the Match Commissioner, who is the senior official at the match venue and responsible for matters related to the playing enclosure, the conduct of the match and the elements related to teams in the organisation of each match” Talei said.
She added “Responsibilities include decisions related to the delay of matches and implementation of such decisions in accordance with the Terms of Participation for the match or tournament.
The Match Commissioner will also adjudicate on Team Managers’ disputes where appropriate, including disputes regarding the three main areas of adherence to the match day run sheet, field of play and Terms of Participation and should have the ability to manage Rugby events and tournaments.”
Talei said she is not stopping here “As advised by World Rugby Oceania Training Manager, Talemo Waqa, my next step is to become a Citing Commissioner and Match Commissioner Educator, which are two roles I intend to pursue.”
She added her family has been a backbone to all success as they supported her from the start knowing she will hardly spend time with them in the weekends when the rugby season is full on.
“They have been very supportive and were very excited when I mentioned it to them in the beginning.
My husband, three children and even my mum have always been very supportive towards my aspirations, especially when there were times, I wanted to throw in the towel they just kept pushing me.
I have a special needs son who was born with Cerebal Palsey and I have to say he is what keeps me driven towards my goals each day.
To date my family do not know that I have completed the Match Commissioner course and have been signed off by Mr Waqa. I just want to see the look on their faces when they read it in the papers” she said.
She said “The Fiji Rugby has supported me by sending me to courses and trainings that were available in order to upskill myself.
“I am thankful that FRU CEO, John O’Connor approved for me to train as a Match Commissioner and also sent me to the OSEP Manager’s Course which I have also completed.
These are two roles outside of my Job Description, but he saw it as an opportunity that would not only benefit me, but the FRU and Oceania Rugby as a whole.
The FRU Staff and Coaches have also being very supportive with their assistance and advice which I am grateful for” she said.
Apart from being an employee of Fiji Rugby, Talei also has a small Kiosk at the Laqere Market.
She said “It is a little tea shop that sells cakes, pies, Fijian pastries and hot beverages.
My mum runs it during the week, and in the weekends when there are no games, I takeover, so that she can have a well-deserved rest at home.
The kids also pitch in and help at the Kiosk on weekends, so everyone is involved in the business.
Talei has personally take this opportunity and thank a few people that have helped her reach where she is today.
She said “My mum is the backbone to my success today, bringing me up as a single parent and enduring the hardships that came along with it including my stubbornness.
I salute her and all the women out there who sacrifice all they have to ensure that their children become successful.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her.
Just being able to manage your time, being dedicated and having the support of my family and my husband’s family helps me balance everything.”
“I recently lost a cousin, Gaby Naigulevu and an Uncle, both of whom I was very close to.
I dedicate this achievement to them and only wish that they were here to celebrate with me. They would have been very proud” said Tal