Unlike many players on the current Central Oregon Community College rugby team, Manu Vete grew up understanding the sport.
“My dad is a semi pro rugby player for Tonga,” Vete explained. “I was raised around rugby and football.”
Vete was born and raised in Hawaii. He moved to Bend from South Kona, which is located on the island of Hawaii. The presence of a collegiate rugby team sealed Vete’s decision to come to COCC.
“I called up my friend Jacob [Mareko] and asked him what school we should go to to play rugby and [COCC] was the school,” Vete said.
Together, Mareko, also known as Loto, and Vete made the decision to attend COCC and participate in the Bobcats’ rugby program.
In high school, Vete played the position of prop, a position he still plays on the rugby team here at COCC. The prop position is typically held by “slower, but stronger guys” on the team who focus primarily on defense. The prop position is similar to an offensive tackle position in football; however, there are recognizable differences between rugby and football.
“Rugby is a gentlemen’s sport,” Vete explained. “Yes, during the game, we may try to hurt each other, but we respect each other. We help each other up. We don’t do a whole lot of smack talking like in football.”
Vete is still adjusting to playing here in Central Oregon.
“[I] have a hard time breathing up here because of the elevation,” Vete said.
Yet Vete is not willing to allow breathing difficulties or any other obstacles stand in his way of achieving his goals for his career with the COCC Bobcats.
“My goal is to win a championship for the school,” Vete said. “We have the team, we have the talent, we are determined to win.”
According to Vete, determination and talent are not the only traits that guarantee a championship title. There is one component that is often left out of the equation that plays a crucial role in a team’s success: trust.
“It’s just about trust.” Vete explained. “You have to trust in your team. Help each other out, push each other. You have to trust the guy next to you.”
Vete trusts his teammates to accomplish his goal of winning a rugby championship for COCC this year. But collegiate championships are not the only goals Vete has for his personal rugby career. Like his father, Vete hopes to pursue a professional career in rugby.
“Someday I would like to play for Samoa or an islander team,” Vete said.
Emily Kalei | The Broadside