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Opinion

The Pacific is letting our rugby children down

Fiji vs NZ. Photo: Fiji Rugby Union

Although the Fijians showed poise and grit against the All Blacks over the weekend in Dunedin, the 23-57 loss exposed the continual slide of the three rugby powerhouses in the Pacific – Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

Fiji had to go through a monumental task getting players from France, England, Wales, Australia and Fiji to go through a two week Covid 19 quarantine, then camp a few days before being thrown on the pitch against the world’s best rugby team.

The New Zealand team had been involved together in a butchered Super Rugby season after South Africa and Argentina had to pull out because of the stringent measures enforced by the Covid 19 pandemic.

Nevertheless the Kiwis had some comparative normality in the Aotearoa Super rugby competition, a two week camp before their first Test in a runaway win against the Tongans.

Tonga lost 0-102 to New Zealand last week, and lost to Samoa 13-42 in the first of two 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifying matches. Samoa made a better showing against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks 10-35 in the first match last month and 21-38 loss last week.

The Pacific islanders have shown glimpses of their potential from the late 1930s to date beating Tier One nations pre-professionalism, and post-1995. However they have been sapped in the administration of their number one sport in their respective nations and have squandered funds handed out by the global body, World Rugby.

World Rugby would be of better assistance to the three island nations if it trained young islanders in the administration, advertising and marketing of the sport, and allowed them to run the sport in the nations as a business.

The availability of millions of dollars worth of raw material in the players should be diverted to running academies, so that players can be developed at a young age in competitions that cover primary, secondary school and then elite levels. This will prepare them for club, provincial and national levels.

With a local lack of administrative skills and business acumen, the scouts from New Zealand, Australia and Europe come offering scholarships, and ship these young children offshore with the enticement of a prosperous rugby career, and our players end up wearing a foreign jumper at international level.

The big hue and cry to change the citizenship of players back to their native Pacific islands is not the primary solution because the adoption of these children points back to the elders back home for not protecting and raising them up in their own environment.

The enticement of the dollar has blinded the parents, community leaders and administrators and allowed their children to be taken to a foreign culture for the benefit of these Tier One nations.

It is time the adult generation of the three Pacific Islands put their heads together to properly nurture and market the biggest and most precious raw material we have, our children.

The Pacific island offspring have God given abilities to play rugby in their own environment if properly managed. They can be world beaters from their own islands. It is our responsibility to steward them to full blown development.

Then the future Tier One nations of Tonga, Samoa and Fiji can win the Webb-Ellis Cup in style.

1 Comment
  1. Tevita Kabakoro Rokobaro 11 months ago
    Reply

    I totally agree with the comments stated above. It is so very unfortunate, to say the least, that the common denominator in the issues surrounding the ever suffering rugby in all the South Pacific island nations, are the irresponsible behaviours of our administrators, and those that are in the government, who, cannot keep their hands off from the running of sports (especially rugby) in their respective countries. It is quite embarrassing in a way, that the international rugby board, the IRB, are actively, and positively providing financial support to all our respective Rugby Unions, and those funds are being misappropriated by the receivers; and even in some cases, the government also grabs a piece of that cake, so to speak. It is sad to say, that, the innocent people at the grassroot of the rugby community, the rugby players themselves at all levels of competition, are being abused and betrayed by the elite administrators in high places.
    In Fiji, for instance, the corrupt Fiji First government, literally pokes its nose into everything that is happening in the country, inclusive of all sporting bodies. This is our main problem here in Fiji. The government even goes to the extent of literally removing/appointing CEO’s, and members of the board of directors of the FRU. Such vicious cycles of removals and appointments, have become a norm in our poor and suffering rugby community in Fiji. In the midst of all these controversies between the good and the bad, it’s the rugby players, where “the rubber meets the road,” are the innocent victims at the end of the day. Consequently, promising talented young rugby players, they just pop up occasionally into the rugby scene every now and again, and they slowly fade away in the dark, beyond the clouds of the ever present corruption of the Fiji Rugby administration.

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