Oldham’s new fan from Fiji

Date published: Tuesday, June 8, 2010

OLDHAM Roughyeds had a new fan at Whitebank Stadium last Sunday . . . all the way from Fiji.

And it was an occasion to remember for 16-year-old rugby fan Kelemete Raivuni, who watched Roughyeds beat Blackpool 40-26 in the company of a former Fijian wing star who is still revered in his native isles.

Mike Ratu left the South Pacific 50 years ago to join several of his fellow Fijians at Rochdale Hornets and he was to launch a rugby league dynasty in which his son Eamonn and grandson Mike jnr both became well-known players.

Mike snr and Eamonn accompanied Kelemete and his travelling companion Tevita to the Roughyeds game, after which they watched Kelemete go up on stage in the Whitebank Stadium clubhouse to receive a memento of his visit from club chairman Christopher Hamilton.

Roughyeds prop Dave Ellison was on stage also to shake Kelemete’s hand and to hand him a rugby ball signed by the entire Roughyeds squad.

It was thanks to local prosthetics student Lisa Buckley that Kelemete was in England to have a prosthetic leg fitted. He was born with part of his left leg missing and he had been fitted with a primitive wooden prosthetic which was bulky, ill fitting and held in place with string and masking tape.

Lisa, of Parkway, Chadderton, was told of the 16-year-old’s plight by her father, Roy Zaman, a British Army support officer based in Fiji.

With the help of her father, a Rotarian in the Suva North Fiji branch, Lisa secured £4,000 funding from Rotary International to bring Kelemete to England and to get him fitted with a new prosthetic.

He has flown home now but while he was in Oldham he stayed with Tony Wright, secretary of the Chadderton and Failsworth Rotary Club.

And the Roughyeds’ connection? Said Chris Hamilton: “Several years ago Lisa’s mother, Susan, was our club secretary for a time when we were based in Union Street. We kept in touch when she left us.

“A short time ago she contacted me to tell me that Lisa had arranged for rugby fan Kelemete to come to England for a new prosthetic and she wondered if we could perhaps invite him to a game.

“Needless to say, we were delighted to do so. He is a very quiet lad but I’m sure he enjoyed the game and that his visit to Oldham Roughyeds will be among his many memories of his trip across the world.”