Whether it’s anchoring the strong Old Boys University scrum, or hitting the ball up in midfield as he frequently does in games, Jonathon Fuimaono is an integral cog in the Old Boys University Premiers.
On Saturday ‘Fui’ plays his 100th Premier match for them, and few are more deserving of the milestone.
The committed, whole-hearted play of the popular prop is one of the reasons behind OBU’s recent rise and annexing of last year’s bucqui Jubilee Cup and this year’s Swindale Shield.
“Playing in last year’s Jubilee Cup final was a big highlight.” he said. “For us to win it for the first time in 50 years and to be part of that group of people was pretty special.”
He admits that the Goats have a battle on their hands if they are to defend the Jubilee Cup in six weeks from now.
“We can defend it, and not just be there to make up numbers either. We believe we can win it again, we just need to do some fine tuning.”
Injuries haven’t helped. “I think with the amount of injuries we’ve had it makes it difficult but we do have a lot of depth and guys that can fill in.”
Fui will play his 100th game this Saturday on the Basin Reserve against the Wellington Axemen.
Last weekend, OBU was well beaten against Marist St Pat’s, 19-49, a side that Fui has had any tussles with over the years, including in last year’s final that the Goats won 30-27.
After all, Fui is a St Pat’s Town old boy, one of several players on both sides, including MSP captain and Wellington College old Boy Isaac O’Connor AKA the Red Mist playing for the opposite club that the two secondary schools are affiliated with.
“MSP is probably the hardest team that I normally play, but I went to school with a lot of their boys, so I get a lot of enjoyment playing against them – especially when we win!”
He also made his Premier debut for OBU against MSP at the start of 2008.
“And that was the only loss they had in that whole season.
“Initially I had gone into that match as a reserve but Con Williams had injured his knee and he was out for the season. So it was only by injury that I made the team.”
He admits his introduction to Premier rugby was a massive step up from Premier Reserve rugby. “I got taught a few lessons that year, scrummaging-wise.”
He recalls a match in 2008 against Petone. “The first time I got taught a real lesson was in a Swindale Shield match that year when I came up against Thomas Tupuivao and we got absolutely hammered.”
Petone won 41-13 in that 10th round match that day at Nairnville Park, also snuffing out OBU’s hopes of winning the Swindale Shield that year. MSP won the competition with 47 points, ahead of Norths 43, Petone 42 and OBU 41.
“We had an all-star backline but our scrum got absolutely demolished and they scored a couple of pushover tries so that was pretty humbling.”
Now Fui is an experienced front rower and it’s him schooling some of the players he comes up against.
He’s had a healthy ongoing rivalry with several players, such as Poneke’s Misiluni Moananu and Hutt Old Boys Marist’s Simon Malaeulu. “They are probably my two hardest opponents over the years.”
He joined Old Boys University after leaving school and initially played for the OBU U19s in 2006 and for the Premier Reserves in 2007.
Rugby had taken a back seat in his last year of school. “I ruptured by ACL in the pre-season playing for the First XV so I was out for the whole season in my final year.”
Prop wasn’t his first position either. “At school I was a No. 8 and I didn’t move into the front row until sixth form [year 12].”
Following his first two seasons in Premier rugby, he headed overseas and played club rugby in Belgium for a couple of years.
He joined a club over there called Dendermonde that play in the Belgian Elite League.
“The first year I was there I was the first New Zealand import they had ever had in Belgium, now nearly every team has a couple of kiwis playing for them. I enjoyed playing for them and the community aspect of it was memorable.”
Back in New Zealand Fui also played two representative seasons in 2012 and 2013 for the Wairarapa-Bush Heartland side.
Fui has no thoughts of retirement. “I have got at least another five years in me."
Injuries tend to come along at the right time. “I’ve been really lucky in that I tend to only injure myself towards the end of the season. In 2013 we bowed out to Tawa in the semi-finals and I popped my shoulder. I had a torn calf last year forcing me to miss a few Jubilee Cup rounds – but I’ve been pretty good on that front.”
Article by: Steven White
Original article found at: http://www.clubrugby.co.nz/wellington/story.php?id=1996