Julian Vulakoro - Nimes Rugby Club

  • Surname: Vulakoro
  • First name/s: Julian Robert Bavatu
  • Date of birth: 30/06/82
  • Place of birth: CWM SUVA FIJI
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Club: Nimes Rugby Club
  • Position: Five eight/Centers
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Julian Vulakoro in action
(Photo: Supplied)

As stated by the French Ambassador Gilles Montagnier at France’s National Day celebrations in Suva on 14th July, “The only area, in which we can not disagree this year 2012, is in the area of sport. The Fijians have an overwhelming victory. Fiji is fortunate to have Mr. Franck Boivert here, who I welcome this evening; but there are nearly 200 Fijians play rugby in France. So a victory to Fiji 200 -1.”

This next rugbyman in our series “Discovering Fiji’s Rugbymen in France,” is no stranger to Fiji rugby; having played not only in local competitions but also on the national team. Like the many of the 200 Fiji rugbymen in France, Julian Robert Bavatu Vulakoro has surmounted many challenges to get to where he is today. Read on for this exclusive interview.

Q: Which part of Fiji are you from originally? Where did you grow up?

A: I am from the island of Yacata but grew up in Suva.

Q: When did you start playing rugby?

A: My passion for rugby, I have to say came from my elder brother George Vulakoro whom I used to watch play when I was in primary school, and who is still today my favourite player. Out of the 2 in the family I went further to take rugby as a career for me and my family!

Q: When did you start playing professionally?

A: For me personally, when we say “professional” it’s not when we get rewards than we act professionally it’s the sacrifice one has made before achieving the goal. That has already made him a pro, I think.
I started professionally when I didn’t make it in school and that time rugby was the only solution to make it in life for me as I spent more time with the oval ball than with pens and books so yes I started professionally the day I chose rugby as a career.

What clubs have you played in?
Played 3 wonderful seasons with Racing -Metro 92, 2 seasons in Marseille and now in Nimes.

Tell us briefly about your rugby career. (Your progress through to where you are now)
It’s been a wonderful journey - have met and made lots of new friends and have come to love the French way of life to which we as a family have adapted very well. Firstly I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for my ever loving beautiful wife Miliakere Vulakoro who has been the backbone of my rugby career from when I was not known to the rugby public until now.
I am ever thankful also to Kalaveti Batibasaga and family in Navola Village and all of you good people who have played a part in making my rugby career (you know who you are) and also not forgetting my late mum Ena Vulakoro whom at first was against the idea of me choosing rugby as a career (understandable as all mothers want better things for there kids and back then in Fiji, being a sportsperson was not good enough to put food on the table).
It became one of my goals that through the talents that God has blessed us with we can make a living out of it with right mind set, so further up in my career I managed to convince my mum and she became my number 1 fan, which I am still very proud of today

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Training with Jonah.
(Photo: Supplied)

Q: What was the “triggering factor” that made you decide to go to France?

A: Before France I had a couple of seasons in New Zealand which I can say was and still is the best place to learn true rugby. Any one that came thru NZ rugby will agree that it is the place that prepares you well as a rugby player, the triggering factor for me was the excitement of a new adventure and also I had started a family and I had a son (Tukai), Sefanaia Sukanaivalu Vulakoro, and it was the right time to go if I was to support my family financially.

How did you manage to find (contact) a club in France?
It was thru David Mooney, a nice agent that I only met by telephone that contacted me in Fiji after my Europe tour with the Fiji 15’s in 2005 and who got me in contact with French Top Agent Manu Bloviel that engaged my contract with Racing-Metro 92.

Q: What has changed in your life since you started playing professionally?

A: Nothing has changed really for me I keep the same values taught to me growing up even thou we are in France now with 3 kids getting reasonable money I try not to make changes with the Fiji way of living (identity). I believe one must not change his way according to professional achievements also it was important to my wife and I to make sure our kids don’t lose there identity no matter where we are in the world as it is important.

Q: Did you find it easy, as a newcomer, to settle in with the rest of your team mates? To settle in France?

A: At first it was hard because I had to leave my family behind but in the end it was ok. I am a team player and getting along with my new mates wasn’t hard for me. It was a new adventure for me and my family in which I must thank the Lord for blessing us with this great opportunity for without His blessing we won’t be where we are today

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Isikeli Davetawalu,Tavite Veredamu,Joeli Navolo,Tereaimu with Vulakoro’s 3 children: Tukai, Enna and George
(Photo: Supplied)

Q: When you first arrived in France, what shocked or surprised you the most?

A: The French culture and also the place I was going to stay – PARIS…very beautiful

Q: What do you think are the biggest differences between living in Fiji and living in France?

A: I think the difference is not being with your family.

Q: Is your family with you in France? If not, how often do you visit them?

A: Yes they have been here with me since I started my contract in 2006!

Q: How do you stay in touch with your loved ones back home in Fiji?

A: Through telephone and internet

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The Vulakoros catching up with friends in France: Wife, Miliakere with Fijian Foreign Legionnaires: Joeli Navolo, Tavite Veredamu and Teremu Tevaearai (Tahiti).
(Photo: Supplied)

Q: Why did you decide to come and play in France?

A: It was an opportunity that only comes once in life,it’s the holy grail for rugby players in the Pacific, especially Fiji. Its the only way you were going to be respected and looked up to in the community and also France is a wonderful place for raising a family !

Q: What do you like most about France?

A: Well the family benefits both health and working and most of all the culture!

Q: What do you miss the most?

A: Ena Rogoyawa Vulakoro (my MUM)

Q: Most memorable match moment as a player?

A: Winning the respected FAREBROTHER CUP CHALLENGE for Suva Rugby against Nadroga in I think 2005…great feeling!!

Q: Most memorable moment as a spectator?

A: Watching my son play rugby for the first time!

Q: Favourite rugby player?

A: George Vulakoro, my brother, who inspired me to play rugby when I used to watch him play…could have been a great player!

Q: Favourite team?

A: COASTAL STALLIONS 2004 (Colonial Cup Fiji)

Q: How are you coping with your fame as an overseas professional rugby player?

A: I think my fame has had its day’s being a professional player but as a person it’s very heartening to know that people still recognise you for that.

Q: When your overseas rugby career ends, would you consider returning to play for Fiji?

A: I have played for Fiji. I haven’t taken the jersey off, it’s still on me here in France in the form of paving the way for our young Fijians who have chosen rugby as a career to be able to come over. So my duty as a Fijian rugby player is to play hard on and off the field so that our young rugby youths have a future here, so yeah I would love to come back and give back to Fiji but for now I have to keep playing hard for the future Fijian players.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

A: Well its still 10yrs away I don’t know really but that’s the beauty in letting God decide your future. Just believe in Him, the rest will take care of itself.

Q: Who inspires you the most?

A: My Family

Q: We hear many sports people have a lucky charm (special shorts, etc) or even a special ritual they use/do before a big game; do you have one? If yes, what is it?

A: My lucky charm is knowing that everything is ok at home with my family and whoever is with them at home only then I will be able to focus well on my game no matter what level of rugby.

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Christmas 2011 in France with friends and family
(Photo: Supplied)

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Published on 20/07/2012

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