Let’s Make World Sev­ens Se­ries Our Own Af­ter Rio gold

Fiji Sun - - Comment - OSEA BOLA Feed­back: os­eab@fi­jisun.com.fj

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.

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