What is Ben’s worth?
Timoci Gaunavinaka Nausori
Now that the dust has settled in Rio and we have showcased our talents to the world claiming that first gold for rugby since 1924, we now ponder on Ben’s decision whether to go or stay. Where do we go to from here? It is easy to say that we have talent and we will again produce players of this calibre. It is easy to say we can bring a coach who can match Ben Ryan. But to achieve that will be no easy task.
We must not forget that despite all these talents we had, we were humiliated in the last two rugby sevens world cups. We lost in Hong Kong five years in a row from 1985 to 1989 and a few more years after that. We have never won a Commonwealth Games rugby sevens gold medal and out of the 17 years of IRB series, we have only won 2 under Ben Ryan. Ben has received over 20 offers from nations with money to burn and realistically there is no doubt that they are in the seven digit category. Now, Fiji must ask, what is Ben Ryan’s worth to us? What is the true value of this ginger haired Englishman? What happened in Rio shattered the structure of the sporting world order. Never in the history of the Olympics has a tiny island nation inflicted such a huge humiliation and showed wide disparity in talents between gold and silver against a genuine Olympic Games overall contender and economic super power (Great Britain). Usain Bolt won all his three gold medals by fractions of seconds over the silver medallist winners. The USA Dream Team (basketball) beat Serbia in the final by 96-66 or about 145 per cent more points.
But Fiji beat Great Britain by 614 per cent (43/7) more points in a sport that is more physical than running and more vigorous than basketball to win gold.
My earlier letters in this column before Rio predicting that the Fijians will bomb Rio, that we will hit the bullseye and that Ryan will create his own legacy all came true. That was no prophecy, but just pure analytical thinking. Our tourism sector has spent millions of dollars every year to market Fiji. And here comes Ryan and his boys who sold Fiji to the world twenty times more in just three days.
He has instilled discipline and consistency to our sevens rugby which Fiji lacked for decades. This has tremendously increased the value and marketability of our local players.
It is ridiculous to categorise our sevens rugby as just a sport. It will be like putting tin, iron and gold in the same basket and saying that they are all of equal value because they are all metals. Rugby sevens is our crown jewel and must be treated as such. This is why I disagree with all of those who say that we cannot afford to pay Ryan, and his assistants what they deserve. In fact we just lack the will to do so. The justifications are all there plain and clear. Whatever decision Ben makes Fiji must respect. But let us hope that he will take that consultancy offer in Hollywood for a few months in the making of a blockbuster movie regarding our humble beginnings and our road to gold.
If that happens, it will market Fiji more than 10 times compared to our gold from Rio. Captain Osea Kolinisau correctly summed it up when he said, “Ben, we will always be indebted to you”.