Seru Rabeni was set to become more involved with Hong Kong rugby and open Fiji academy before untimely death
The Fijian great shocked the sport after his death aged just 37
Sevens great Seru Rabeni was looking forward to expand his involvement in both Hong Kong rugby and in his native Fiji before his shock death aged just 37.
The former Sevens winner, who played in two World Cups with Fiji and with clubs in France, England and New Zealand, died of a suspected heart attack in Fiji.
He had been planning to set up an academy to develop local talent on the islands and help youngsters out of poverty through rugby.
A statement from his partner in Hong Kong, Susan Macdonald said “Seru Rabeni’s unexpected and untimely departure at the age of 37 causes great shock and brings deep grief ... Susan Macdonald and two-year-old daughter Ayami (bound to be a diplomatic go-between with Fiji and Scottish rugby) will contend with fond memories of the man they love and who loved them.
“Susan, Ayami and Seru’s friends know first-hand, and will fondly remember and keenly miss his big frame and even bigger heart – and his warm and gentle and generous personality, and his contagious smile.”
Rabeni had been coaching Discovery Bay Pirates after moving to Hong Kong in 2014 to study. He also played occasionally for Hong Kong Scottish.
An article written by Rabeni as part of his entrance to a sports marketing and management Masters degree gave some insight into his upbringing and background:
“I was raised up in my local village called Nasolo in the second largest island of Fiji called Vanua Levu,” he wrote.
— Tom Youngs (@TomYoungs87) March 15, 2016
“Being brought up through what I could say was ‘living on poverty line’ made me want to change my village and the people’s mindset and improve our standard of living ...
“My upbringing was more of “living to survive’ until I got the opportunity to play rugby, the only sport in Fiji that does not need more than an empty space to play the game.
“One you got that space, all you need is a coconut or bottle to start the game. This sport saved my life and I was able to play it to the highest level in Fiji earning myself a lifetime opportunity to go and further my studies in Otago, New Zealand.”
Seru Rabeni's passing is incredibly sad. What a player and a team man. Our support and best wishes go to his family.
— Jonny Wilkinson (@JonnyWilkinson) March 15, 2016
Rabeni detailed how his success helped fund improvements to his village and help children with school fees.
“This was a huge satisfaction but what was missing is something that would enable me to change the future of my community. Rugby had played its part, but for the long term, I do feel that only education will solve the problem. This is when I planned to go the furthest I can with my level of education so that I can take back to my community all that I have learned and change our future.
Life is precious.The passing of Seru Rabeni is tragic news,taken too young , but let us remember to enjoy our time .R.I.P my friend.x
— Gareth Thomas (@gareththomas14) March 15, 2016
“I would like to finish my Masters and even get to the next level so that I can not only help out my community, but further my help and experience to the local Fiji Rugby Union who are dying to have someone who not only played the game at the highest level but also have the education credentials to take Fiji Rugby into the future.”
Stars from around the world of rugby lined up to pay tribute to Rabeni, including Jonny Wilkinson,