Misaele Vakadranu is a Rugby League `missionary with a whistle’.
Fijian-born, Misaele came to England in 2000 to join the British Army, which is where he was first introduced to the game.
“I tried it during a physical education session, fell in love with it and also watched NRL matches on TV,” he notes.
“When I left the Army in 2008 for the Netherlands, to work for the United Nations in The Hague, I came across the sport again, and was going to almost every game and training clinic in Holland.”
Misa, as he is known to all, then took up match officiating and, with whistle in hand, his evangelical spirit to help spread the game wherever he was posted.
“I began officiating at different levels and visited many countries in Europe,” he says. “I even spent a year working in Serbia, and while I was there I refereed many of the games in their domestic competitions.
“Countries I have been to for refereeing so far, are: Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Wales and England.”
He has now set his sights on restarting the sport in Austria where he is currently based. In 2006, the Austrian national side played in a one-off, Central Europe Development Tri-Nations competition, losing out just 34-32 to Germany and defeating Estonia 56-32.
Interest waned after that, but Misa is determined to start a domestic competition in that country.
“I love Rugby League so much,” he confirms, “but was now in a country that didn’t have the sport, so in 2019 I started to reach out about how I could re-start this sport in Austria but Covid 19 hit us badly and I had to stop. This year though, I thought ‘let me give it another shot’, and went for my Level 1 Coaching course with Wales Rugby League (done virtually), and I am now waiting to put that into practice once we are allowed to do so.”
“I started enquiring around to see if anyone here had knowledge of the sport, found a few people and formed an interim board,” Vakadranu continues, “and we looking into ways that we can begin to reach out.
“We are planning to have two big teams from Serbia play here in Austria, Red Star versus Partizan – the historic rivalry. That should attract a big crowd as Vienna has a large Serbian community; roughly half a million people.
“But the main picture is to get local players joining us during this game. That will be a boost, but the long-term goal is to see that someday, all nine provinces of Austria will play rugby league.”
Anyone interested in supporting the setting up of rugby league in Austria should contact Nisa at https://www.facebook.com/Austria-Rugby-League-Recruitment-730549170611316
This is the year of the Rugby League World Cup 2021