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Fijian Drua sets up Aussie home

A New South Wales tourism site labels Lennox Head a “seaside village” that both metaphorically and literally lies in the shadows of its more glamorous Byron Bay neighbours.

It may be a bit sleepy in comparison but equally has pristine beaches that ensures the 8000 residents have their own piece of a sunny paradise.

That sort of seaside village, which was created from lava flows heading south and east from a shield volcano 23 million years ago, is sure to be a place that will make the Fijian Drua feel right at home.

“It’s just such a stunning part of the world, with a great climate, and being so close to the lake and ocean, makes it ideal for our players as a home away from home for the 2022 season,” Interim Drua chief executive Brian Thorburn said at a press conference.

The newest Super Rugby Pacific franchise announced at the weekend that the playing squad will set up camp in the northern corner of the Australian state that is close to the border with Queensland.

Almost giddy with anticipation to move into their new residence for around eight months, the Drua assembled this week at the Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre for the first time.

An aerial view of the Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre including accommodation and training facilities. Picture: The NSW government office of sport

Thorburn said the search for a place to call home most days other than matchday was an exhaustive process.

“We needed to find a home base where the team could initially prepare over a three-month period until the end of January 2022, which then could be used as a home base between (our) Super Rugby Pacific matches during the 2022 season,” he said.

The low-key sport and recreation centre is not the ANZ National Stadium nor Churchill Park, and it’s certainly no Sydney Football Stadium or Suncorp Stadium.

But Thorburn said the facility in Lennox Head provides “everything we need” to best prepare in the best domestic competition in the world.

“It has an excellent training field, a great gym and all the facilities needed to provide a professional environment for a Super Rugby team,” he said.

“Our players will stay in cottages on site, enjoy very high-quality dining facilities, with team rooms and coaches’ offices that are a great fit.”

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No word on where exactly the Drua will play their home matches other than the announcement last September that they will be in Australia while Moana Pasifika will play out of South Auckland in New Zealand.

The 75-minute drive from their training base to the Gold Coast could suggest that Robina Stadium is a frontrunner.

The smaller but revamped Coffs Harbour Sports Stadium is a further hour drive south of Lennox Head.

Plans are already in place to ensure the side will return to play in Fiji ahead of the 2023 season after restrictions fully ease on travel across the Pacific region.

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