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Old Terringtonian plays for U18 England rugby

'Back to school for England U18s rugby star' (Yorkshire Post, 15 May 2017)

Former head boy Cameron Kelemeti (17) received a warm welcome when he returned to Terrington Hall to present the school with the U18 rugby shirt in which he had scored his first try for England last month.

Now at Durham School, the Newcastle Falcons Academy player and England international has never forgotten the school which, seven years previously, had offered him the lifeline of a scholarship to pursue his education and rugby career.

Earlier this year, Cameron was one of two members of the England U17 rugby development squad to make selection for the U18 England team.

Playing at scrum half in last month’s U18 international series in Wales, he scored a try in the opening match against Canada U19 which England won 55-11. Two more wins followed against Ireland (39-20) and Scotland (45-24).

Cameron has recently won selection to the U18 England rugby sevens squad which travels to the Bahamas in July for the Youth Commonwealth Games.

For the modest, quietly-spoken Kelemeti it has been an extraordinary journey, not least because this month the local English family who became his guardians and cared for him as one of their own have now adopted him after a lengthy legal process. With a strong family around him here, his future is secure.

Born in Fiji, Cameron was brought up from the age of six by his maternal grandparents after the death of his single mother following childbirth. She was 22 and his father was barely present in his life.

Of his childhood, Cameron recalls: ‘Rugby was all I ever wanted to do. I played from the age of four. At school, we’d play at break times using a bottle of water as a rugby ball.’

Spotted by rugby union scouts whilst competing in Fiji’s U11 national rugby tournaments, Cameron was offered a place on the scholarship programme set up by former Terrington Hall headmaster Jon Glen and parent Charlie Charters, the aim of which was to give talented Fijian rugby players the opportunity of an education in England whilst pursuing their rugby careers.

‘My grandfather called a family meeting to discuss whether I should go. I was only 11. It was decided that a chance of an English education was too big an opportunity to miss.’

After a successful career at Terrington where he studied French, Spanish and Latin for the first time, passed all his common entrance examinations and was appointed Head Boy, he moved on to Durham School on a sport scholarship.

Here, under the guidance of rugby coaches Mark Bedworth and Ben Mason, Cameron’s rugby career flourished. In Year 9 he played for County Durham, in Year 10 he signed with the Newcastle Falcons Academy and, by Year 11, he was training with the U16 England rugby development squad.

Whilst at Terrington, Cameron befriended Joe and Sam Nordli whose parents, Jane and Marty welcomed him into their family as one of their own, regularly having him and fellow Fijian sports scholar Sakeasi Kaitoga to stay at weekends and in the holidays. They became his guardians when he moved to Durham, and then, with the blessing of Cameron’s grandparents, applied to adopt him.

‘Jane and Marty are everything to me. They are the mother and father I never knew and have supported me all the way.’

Now studying A-level DT, Business Studies and PE at Durham School, Cameron intends to go to university whilst pursuing his rugby career.

‘I don’t want to rush into signing a rugby contract. My education is really important to me. Rugby is my life, but it only takes one injury to end my career. I’d like to study something like architecture or quantity surveying and to have the opportunity to go to a rugby university such as Durham or Exeter or Bath.

‘I am grateful to so many people for giving me this future, but without the support of Terrington Hall and Jon Glen I would not be where I am today.

‘The day I heard I had won a scholarship to a school in England was the day that changed my life.’

Now that the adoption process has been finalised, Jane and Marty Nordli’s first wish is to fly Cameron’s grandparents – whom they have never met - to England to show them the life that Cameron has made for himself and to share their delight at how far he has come.

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