Have you ever had that feeling of sadness after hearing of the passing of a dear friend and as you recall those wonderful memories of him or her, you put a smile on your face appreciating those memories. Even if you know it’s someone that you hardly see or speak to daily, it’s just the thought of how the deceased had an impact in your life in some way. If you’re lying in bed staring at the ceiling and just taking your mind back to those wonderful years, you tend to imagine a slideshow of images recalling those moments. You may have a tear or two running down your face after each image but there’s also a sense of appreciation of those moments.
That is the kind of feeling I had after hearing of the passing of Retired Colonel Vagi Oala last night. He’s not someone I interact with daily but as many members of United Cricket Club and the general Hanuabada community will attest, the man commonly known by villagers as Army Tauna (soldier) was a larger than life figure in the big village and the country.
Many of you will know the retired Colonel as a dedicated soldier with many years serving in the army. While his dedication and achievements in the military is undisputable there’s another side of his contribution that many may not be aware of. I thought it would be nice to give you another side of him, at least through my interaction with him.
I recall first meeting with the army tauna in the early 90’s when he became a member of the United Cricket Club. The once premier club had just been reinstated to the local Port Moresby cricket competition after many years in the doldrums. Colonel Vagi’s younger brother Lakani was at the forefront of the reinstatement and having nominated my father for President of the club and subsequently being elected President unopposed, both men with the help of other volunteers set to bring back the glory days of Hanuabada cricket and at the same time groom the youngsters of tomorrow.
The then Major Oala and wife Mere were among the early ones to register as members of the club. Their interest in being a part of this rejuvenated club was instantly significant. Instantly significant because Major Oala having spent little time among villagers due to his demanding work commitments came in to be a part of “something new” and possibly even “something big”. Given his status and the respect, all club members felt privileged to be associated with him through the club. It was as many would say “nice to have him in the club”.
Having looked up to the soldier with the respect that he deserved, many including myself were somewhat surprised at how down to earth the person was. He mingled among club members just like any other member and his presence was always appreciated. He had a polite smile on his face that made you feel welcomed.
Back in those days, the social gatherings in the club were much looked forward too. Everything flowed from the singing, the talking, the jokes and of course the drinks. At first, some were a little uneasy around him given that the army tauna did not drink alcohol nor smoke. But he soon put people to ease and encouraged members to enjoy the occasions.
In recalling those moments, these were important occasions because they ultimately built the club to become a family one. The friendship extended far and beyond the club and this was evident when members came to help each other during non-cricketing events like customary obligation events.
The Army Tauna ‘listed‘ himself as a player for the reserve grade but it was a natural fit for him to lead the club’s physical fitness training sessions with another accomplished Hanuabadan, former Kumul fullback Philip Boge.
Looking back at those slideshow images I mentioned above, they bring back not only wonderful memories but positive lessons too. And the late Colonel had a tendency to not only bark out orders during the intensive training sessions, but to give life learning lessons too.
It had always been the case in many sporting training sessions in the village that each grade in the club conducted their own training sessions. When it came to fitness, it was the army tauna’s rule that everyone from juniors to seniors had to take part in the fitness sessions he conducted. He made it one huge fitness training session where every player participated.
One of the positive attributes about this method was that all players became united. United not just by the club name but by the relationships and interactions we had with each member as a team.
Teenagers and senior players who thought they were physically fit soon realized how unfit they were during his training sessions. He may have been in his 40’s but he certainly outrun some of us. I clearly remember the first training session he took because that was the time I’d never felt so fatigued gasping for air.
But perhaps the most important lesson he injected in many of us young players, a lesson that I still remember to this day is his 3D’s advice – and this has nothing to do with graphic designs!
He told us that if we ever want to succeed in life, it was imperative that we acquire the 3D’s – Dedication, Determination and Discipline. At that time, many of us probably didn’t realize how important it would be for us later in life but as it has turned out, the 3D’s have been so critical.
In my opinion, the late Army Tauna contributed significantly to the success of Hanuabada cricket. Perhaps not technically on the field but lessons like training hard, enjoying the mateship off the field, instilling discipline and all those little things off the field that makes a player and club successful. The lessons learnt obviously filtered down to other players and onto other Hanuabada based clubs formed much later.
Dye-tallah was a popular expression used by the United Cricket Club then and it literally means “Let’s go“. The expression was used to cheer the team on and to show one’s passion for the club. When Dye-tallah was chanted by players and supporters alike, some cheeky opposition supporters would stand up to the banter and respond “edekaha baoloa” which literally means “where are you going” but in the context of the banter it can be referred to as “you’re not going anywhere“.
After all the Dedication, Determination and Discipline in his colourful life, the Retired Colonel Vagi Oala certainly knows where he’s going.
Thanks for the slideshow Colonel, dye-tallah!