The National, Wednesday 15th May 2013
By GABRIEL LAHOC
He already has dual citizenship – as a Fijian and Papua New Guinean – and now has the potential to become the first dual sports international from the two countries if he maintains his fiery form in Papua New Guinea’s semi-professional rugby league competition.
Standing at 180cm and weighing 100kg, 27-year-old Petro Sanivalu, is a former Fiji Bati player, who after a short stint playing for Spartans rugby union club in Port Moresby last year was scouted and currently lines up as the starting prop for the revamped Lae Snax Tigers.
As one of four siblings in the Sanivalu family growing up the Fijian mainland of Vitilu, the soft spoken custodian of the Tigers No.10 jersey is one quarter Papua New Guinean through his mum’s Namatanai heritage in New Ireland province.
Making correction on the pronunciation of his first name sounding as ‘Pe-dro’, Sanivalu was quick to quip that his pidgin speaking is good and that he has fit in well into his new environment in Lae’s Papuan compound, where the Tigers are based.
For a prop who runs like an ox and hits like a ram, Sanivalu, still is in awe of the craze surrounding rugby league in Papua New Guinea which compared to the local scenario in Fiji is very big.
However when he is in the playing field, his composure and work rate is that of a veteran home grown player, which he has built up over years after debuting for the Fiji Batis in 2006 as a 20-year-old in their qualifying matches for the World Cup.
“The competition is very big here. Compared to Fiji it’s very big,” he said, speaking English in a typical Fijian accent.
According to the Tigers team management, Sanivalu’s impressive built and performance in the Port Moresby rugby union scene caught the attention of some influential observers who had contacts with the Lae franchise who were on a recruitment drive for the 2013 season.
Sanivalu said that if given an opportunity to play for his mother’s country he would proudly don the Kumul jersey.
“I just like to maintain a good work rate when in the field and I would proudly wear the Kumul jumper if given the opportunity,” he told The National in a recent interview.
Sanivalu is just part of the new Lae Snax Tigers outlook and culture in 2013 Digicel Cup season which coach Stanley Tepend,himself a former Kumul and Mosquitoes (AFL) representative, has put together to restore the pride of league fans at the Lae rugby league ground.
The Tigers presently lead the Digicel Cup on 8 points after an unprecendented run of four consecutive wins at home and the big Fijian-Papua New Guinean has certainly done his part in carting the ball up the middle just like another famous Petero.