Former Bristol and Exeter Chiefs centre Junior Fatialofa will embark on a new challenge this season. The 37-year-old has been appointed the Pacific Rugby Players (PRP) Player Relationship Manager for Pacific Island players based in England. In this exclusive interview Junior speaks of the early challenges he will face, his goals for the season ahead and why all Pacific Island players should get in touch.
Congratulations on the appointment, how excited are you to be embarking on this new challenge?
I’m hugely excited, and extremely proud to kick-starting a new support network for Pacific Island rugby players here in England. As a former player who made the journey to the UK I have the first-hand experience to support these guys as they make the transition into a completely new environment. It can be a very daunting experience so it’s vitally important we recognise support is needed and provide it in the right way. I am looking forward to working with the guys, meeting them and sitting down on a one to one basis, to work towards positive outcomes and cementing plans for a successful professional career in the UK.
Can you explain what your role will involve?
I will be working in conjunction with the nine-strong team of RPA Personal Development Manager’s (PDMs) to provide a range of wellbeing services and education pathways for the Pacific Islanders who are playing here in England. From player welfare, to arranging work experience, to providing education opportunities, to supporting players transitioning out of the game, I will be working extremely hard alongside the team at the RPA to make sure these guys can access this crucial network of support.
What are your initial goals for the position?
First and foremost, I want to meet the guys and start building strong relationships, formed on trust and dedication. It’s important they understand our role, what we represent and the services we will provide them.
Are there any challenges you’re expecting to face?
Any new job will have its challenges. This is a new position for me, I am stepping out of my comfort zone, so in that respect it will be a personal challenge for me but one I’m relishing. Pacific Islanders contribute a tremendous amount to the game in England, both on and off the field, and it’s important we recognise the challenges they can face. It’s a major cultural change that can take some time to adapt to. I want to be there for our players and their families, and be the face they can trust and put their faith in.
How significant is this appointment for Pacific Rugby Players and why do you believe this is such crucial role?
Through Pacific Rugby Players we have supported many players both in the Pacific and overseas since our inception in 2013. As well as being the official representative of the players of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa in contractual and legal issues, we offer a comprehensive education programme in the Pacific Islands to prepare players for life overseas and in professional rugby. However, this is the first time someone from Pacific Rugby Players have been appointed to be on the ground in England, working with the players on an individual basis. The RPA does an incredible job in English rugby, and for me it’s about working hard with the PDMs, supporting their work and being the face of Pacific Island rugby in the UK. Working in conjunction with International Rugby Players and with regular contact with our new Player Relationship Manager’s in France, Marion Salvaudon and Joe Rokocoko, our aim is to be at the forefront of providing the very best personal development, player welfare and education opportunities for our players.
Finally, what advice would you offer to Pacific Island players who are looking to make the move to England?
Embrace the opportunity. It will be challenging at times, but English rugby is in a fantastic position and you will experience something incredible. From my point of view, if you’re playing in England currently or looking to make the move, please get in touch. I am here to support your journey and will be making regular visits to your club this season. I am extremely excited about meeting you and building something special here in the UK.