Fijians Can Deliver Again: Naca
‘The map of Fiji got extended to whole of pacific after the Olympic triumph’
Rugby sevens Olympic debut not only propelled the sport’s popularity but also put island nation - Fiji - on the world map with their first-ever medal victory at the Rio Summer Games. “It was a moment we will treasure for life,” Naca Cawanibuka, who was the gold medal winning team’s conditioning coach, said while talking to the media ahead of the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament, which starts today. “It was an emotional roller coaster ride to be honest with you,” his eyes lit up with happiness as he spoke about his experience of winning the first-ever Olympic gold for Fiji. He laughed and reminisced a funny moment. “The map of Fiji got extended to whole of Pacific after the Olympic triumph.” “When we look at it in proper context, for me as a Fijian, it was a very emotional and humble opportunity to make a big impact, not only on people back home but obviously on the world audience, putting Fiji there on the (world) map,” said an emotional Cawanibuka, who is in Dubai as the defending champions Fiji’s interim coach. Talking about the team, he pointed out: “We were really grateful that such a small group of men closely bonded to have such a big impact.” Explaining the emotional moments, he added: “The images of the Tropical Cyclone Winston that hit Fiji in February, the backgrounds of the players and their families, the trail of history that blazes behind them, to be on that platform (victory parade), broke us big men down to tears, that was the moment treasured for life.”
It wasn’t easy for Fiji to keep players together on island to prepare for the Rio Games as most of them go to Europe for greener pastures. However, Cawanibuka said that some players, due to strong allegiance and loyalty along with the Olympic carrot hanging, stayed back. “We contracted a core group of players, so that we ensure momentum,” the soft-spoken coach said. The boys lived together, trained together for the Olympic glory. Cawanibuka believes that Olympic dream will always remain for all the Fijian players. At the same time, he accepts that it would be a challenge to keep the boys together. “It will be money thing, at some point or the other, boys have families that they need to support, so obviously it would be a challenge for us to keep them on the island.” He concedes that how to keep players back on island will be important. “Longer we can keep them on the island for next few years, I am sure Fiji 7s can deliver the results again and again.”
For the Dubai 7s contests, he predicted some interesting results. “Sevens World Series is very challenging and all the teams are equal. And, even with the best coaching set up, you can slip up and fall to any team.” He promised that Fijian team would be the same under any coach. “We will keep that trademark and signature going.” -The Khaleej Times
Vodafone Fijian 7s captain Osea Kolinisau with interim coach Nacanieli Cawanibuka during the gym session in Dubai yesterday.