“A lack of stability comes alongside amazing offloads and raw talent in Fiji”
my interview for the Fiji sevens head coach job wasn’t the most straightforward. a tweet let me know the job was being advertised. One email to the Fru later and i was told i’d be having a skype interview at 2am. the shrill noise to tell me of an incoming skype call arrived at 4am and the adventure began, as did my first taste of ‘Fiji time’. the interview went well – for starters i was pretty pleased that i had stayed awake waiting for the call!
the following morning, as i looked on the Fiji times website to find out more about the islands, the news on the back page was that the CeO, who had led the interview, had been sacked. it’s a good example of a lack of foundations and stability that often comes alongside amazing offloads and raw talent. in my three years, i had a number of CeOs, chairmen and boards. this sort of flux means planning and progression is hard.
when i arrived in Fiji to coach the sevens side, the union was bankrupt, world rugby had suspended all funding and i was to be a volunteer for the first five months. that meant all the fabulous players representing the national teams would also do so for free. there was no centre to train in, the team bus needed petrol – we had nothing.
i left post-rio with funding in place for a world-class coach, a central contracts system for the players and a training base, including a gym that was crowd-funded.
effectively i created a sevens environment that was in a bubble; as long as we were left alone to get on with the programme, we would achieve results and leave some foundations. the Prime Minister was supportive and provided me with the ability to control things without board intrusion and that was a major help in achieving Olympic gold. However, that is a system built for sevens only and it is vulnerable if not controlled properly.
to put together a high-performance programme, you look at people, resources and funding. the Pacific nations have brilliant players and the new eligibility rules will help them retain much of their talent, but for real progression that talent must be kept on the islands.
For that to happen, full-time professional contracts are needed domestically, with well-qualified coaches delivering expertise from Kaji (mini) rugby to test level.
Level three-qualified coaches on the island are in low single figures, compared with the thousands in england. Fiji has a huge gap that needs to be filled – with local, not overseas, coaches. the culture is such a unique one that ideally locals would fill the majority of the key positions, but at the moment that’s not possible.
Headlines were made in november when i talked of a potential super rugby franchise in Fiji. yes, i had been contacted by investors who had serious cash. i used the media to bring this to the attention of sanZaar and that led to a meeting. However, i was told by the Fru that i was no longer involved in Fijian rugby and, though my only aim was to get the ball rolling, i backed off and the investors went elsewhere. i hope it’s resurrected as it would keep the best players on the islands.
Having no pro rugby in the Pacific means we can’t moan when players go overseas. it also means the contact time the Xvs team has together is very small and any nation that has 95% of their squad playing overseas is not going to be successful on the test stage.
agents need to be regulated too. i’ve known of bad ones get players drunk before training, lie to them, take huge percentages and leave them to fend for themselves overseas once they have their pound of flesh.
in all, there is much work still to do if Fiji is to achieve its potential in all forms of the game.
Can't catch me! waisea nacuqu breaks for Fiji sevens