Marist slush for lawmen
43 years on and still going strong – Fiji Bitter Marist 7s is one stop, you can’t go wrong with on a Suva weekend. Publicized as the best organized, perhaps, the biggest 7s gathering in the region, this event is one, die-hard fans dare miss. I would class Marist 7s as the ‘mecca’ of local tournaments.
2019 brought all the hype and the fan-fare but the Suva rain spoilt it, people stayed away from the ANZ Stadium and while I stand to be corrected, Marist 7s drew the smallest ever crowd this year when compared to recent years.
Full marks to the organisers, Lawrence Tikaram and his band of volunteers delivered another perfect event.
The men from Nasova can claim the title of undisputed local club champions of Fiji after lifting the Marist title. With a depleted Tabadamu (minus Terio and Apenisa) ousted as they were chasing a record fifth crown, it was left to Police, Ratu Filise and Wardens to fight for the winner’s purse of $11,000.
The lawmen drew a semifinal date with an in-form Ratu Filise, worthy of a cup final billing. Filise from Namatakula were saddled well for the wet Laucala conditions and with mastermind play-maker, Amenoni Nasilasila in super-hot form, early bets were placed on the Etika Tovilevu coached side. Police were loaded with stars and stripes of their own – Livai Ikanikoda, Meli Kurisaru, Suliano Volivoli and Joni Tanoa were the mainstay. The lawmen made mincemeat of Filise in the semifinal – ending their hopes of breaking a long drought. The last time Ratu Filise won, playing as Warwick, when coach Etika was the skipper, guess what? Nasilasila was just 3 / 4 years old then.
Police proved strong in the final vs Wardens and lifted the Marist title for the first time since 1985 – from those days of the late Dominiko Manaseitava, the evergreen, lanky Pita Naruma and speedster, Etuate ‘Honda’.
Ask anyone in the world and it’s easy to say – the 7s talent in Fiji is deep and wide.
I think the national coach must have a tough job in selecting the mix of players for his squad. He needs to look at versatile forwards and perhaps a crop that can take us forward to the battle in Tokyo 2020. The time to blood his new crop is now. Some forwards who impressed me and deserve a place in the national framework are; Fabiano Rogovakalali (Wardens), Volivoli and Tanoa (Police). In the backs – I think Gareth Baber robbed Rusiate Matai of an outing for Police, he is one player, I’d be keen to watch get the nod for a run in one World Series event.
Whatever, our coaching staff have on the cards held closest to their chests – I think the writing is on the wall, we need to match the robust and faster forwards that come through in the USA, New Zealand, South Africa and other top sides. At crunch times on three occasions last year – our men and bulk of them remain in the side failed to deliver.
We are in desperate need for a mastermind, who can direct our play. The pressure on Jerry Tuwai and only time will tell us in relation to that – how he handles that, might put our game at risk in touch and go games. We need specialist players and an ideal back-up for key positions, Marist 7s showed we have the talent pool – it’s now to see if those 7s brains in-charge can identify the potential and explore the qualities and polish the rough diamonds and unleash them to shine on the world stage.
By Satish Narain