Let’s Make World Sevens Series Our Own After Rio gold
This year will go down as the year of sporting excellence for our island nation. We celebrated success in the past but none can be compared to our achievements this year, Our first gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games in August stands as the pinnacle of all our achievements so far. Even rugby commentators talked about a public holiday first before Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama made the announcement in Rio
A public holiday after a big sporting success is not new. It has become a part of our culture and everybody knows. In 2005, when Mr Bainimarama was the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, he was at the Marco Polo Hotel in Kowloon celebrating Fiji winning the Melrose Cup in 2005 with the team in Hong Kong. Former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase called captain Waisale Serevi in the early hours of the morning informing him of a public holiday.
This practice started way back in the 90’s by the late former Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.
The golden achievement in Rio lifted the global profile of rugby to a new high. We thought we would win awards during the World Rugby Awards earlier this month. But we were overlooked by World Rugby. We thought Osea Kolinisau was the favourite for the sevens player of the year gong- WRONG. We thought our 7s Olympians would win the team of the year-WRONG. We thought Ben Ryan would get the coach of 2016-WRONG. As a proud rugby country, the best way forward to prove World Rugby wrong was to have another crack next year. Let bygones be bygones There’s no point lamenting the missed opportunities. It’s time to refresh, tick all the boxes and present a stronger case at the 2017 World Rugby Awards in Monaco.
Firstly, the onus is on our Vodafone Fijian 7s team to start making the World Sevens Series our own. We could stand a better chance of winning the 2017 team of the year by defending the World Sevens Series for the third year in a row. The eyes of the rugby world would be on Fiji when they take the field at the Dubai 7s on December 2-3. As Olympic champions we have a harder road ahead of us. We have to defend our new status in the competitive world series. A lot rest on the new management of Gareth Baber, Naca Cawanibuka and Ropate Kauvesi to keep the winning trend. We have proved that money is not everything. It should not be used as an excuse. Our women’s 7s team, Telecom Fijiana, should also now step up. They should not simply be making the numbers as they have been competing in the Women Sevens Series for a while now. But more emphasis and support should be directed to our Fijian XV team who will be playing in the Women Rugby World Cup qualifier in Hong Kong next month. After beating Papua New Guinea earlier this month, we need to beat either Japan or Hong Kong to book a ticket to Dublin in August. If we are second runner-up we would be in Pool A with Canada, New Zealand and Wales. If we win the qualifier, we would be in Pool C with Ireland, France and Australia. Amazingly, playing Hong Kong on December 9 would be the second time our women would be playing together as a 15s team while HK have been playing for more than 10 years. But first they need to qualify and make a mark in Dublin. Like our men, they need our support to defy the odds and continue to punch above our weight in 2017.
Our chances for awards next year realistically rest with 7s both in the men’s and women’s competition.