The Nadroga stallions stampede roasted all challenging teams for yet another year. Cheers and accolades need to be in order. Nadroga rugby is the power-house of local rugby and you can liken them to the mighty New Zealand side. No dispute – they have both the major XVs titles resting in Nadroga. Satish Narain watched the entire HFC Series and offered his thoughts.
HFC Farebrother Challenge games aren’t easy to defend and Nadroga weathered the storm for the second year running. Nadi came close but lost out 23-26, Malolo provided the biggest scare and the rotation plan of Nadroga mentor Esala Nauga nearly back-fired but in the usual Hakwa fashion, they pulled it out of the fire 13-10 in added time with a try.
Naitasiri and Suva provided strong games but neither Joji Rinakama nor Salimoni Ravouvou’s men could wrestle the coveted trophy away from the holder.
The highlanders from Namosi put on the best challenge from the Central/Eastern zone, watched by their high chief Ratu Suliano Matanitobua from the Lawaqa VIP stand, but Namosi threw away what should have been a memorable HFC Farebrother victory.
A couple of wrong calls, hasty decisions at crucial times by players and not having a good goal-kicker saw them walk off Lawaqa Park empty handed with their heads held high, but licking their wounds all the same.
And what a great input to the Lautoka maroons side by the classy Coaching staff of Ifereimi, Viliame and Oscar. Their only let-down was, their boys didn’t throw a jab in the first half; probably in awe, or had too much respect for the Champions, but when they settled down – yes, they got going but it was all just a little too late.
Nadroga reign again and challenging teams need to produce something extra special if they want to challenge the Kings of local rugby.
Crowd support throughout the HFC Farebrother Series this year was a far cry to what was seen just a couple of years back.
In the past if Naitasiri hosted or took a challenge to the West, my word, it would take you more than an hour to get out of the car park at Lawaqa to hit the main highway. This time it took me less than 5 minutes. Fan numbers in support has definitely dwindled.
Are people losing hope because they feel pre-match that Nadroga would be tough to beat and is that a good thing or bad for the sport?
I think HFC Bank has done a tremendous job in backing the coveted rugby championship but somewhere along the way they need to hire a good event organizer to brighten up the stakes at the challenge games.
You just need to watch an ITM Cup game in New Zealand and copy some of the things to make it all the more interesting for attending fans.
How about some performances by dance groups pre-match and at half-time? Or how about drawing lucky door prizes and giving away a free start up $50 savings passbook to 5 fans from the crowd, I’m sure the list can expand if good event organising or marketing people from Fiji’s own bank can think outside the box.
You need to attract more crowd at provincial games in the country to give local players that taste of playing in front of big gatherings here at home – isn’t that a way of preparing them to face 50,000 plus crowds if they play a rugby Test overseas?
Food for thought and if the powers that be and the great sponsors can just think a little outside the box – they should be able to address this.
Our home based players still fall off the radar by far. The Flying Fijians 2015 Rugby World Cup squad had only Peni Ravai and Leeroy Atalifo, both props, as the only locally based boys in the pack.
The face of our domestic competition needs to lift up if more local players are to be noticed and picked for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
There was one unlucky man, Nemani Nagusa, who captained Nadroga through the HFC Farebrother sweep this year who I thought deserved a place in the side to London. But on the other hand, there were other shining stars unveiled and the best thing that could happen is that they get picked to play 7s for Fiji and grab a professional contract in France or Europe.
Nadroga fly-half Alivereti Veitokani stood out. He had a sound outing throughout the HFC Farebrother Series, forcing his way into the Fiji sevens squad. I thought rugby league convert Nemani Raiwalui was also an instrumental player in the Nadroga backline and 21 year old Apete Daveta needs to get noticed as he has a bright future.
It was tough to see the brilliance of players in other teams because they were not allowed to function under the heavy pressure game that Nadroga plays.
Our local development coaches need to tap talent early at school level and develop them. Master Bill Gadolo is now employed by the Fiji Rugby Union and he is setting up this elite player pathway for both sevens and fifteens, which is a good start and I hope he gets good support to nurture upcoming talent and provide them a pathway towards the Rugby World Cup or the 2020 Olympics and beyond.
Ask any local player if he is playing the game here in the hope of catching the eyes of the scouts and earning money and I mean lots more than an ordinary job can offer here by plying their trade overseas?
With the current trend, most young players are looking out for contracts overseas and hope they earn money and learn more and when they return to trial for the white jumper, somehow it’s easier.
Overseas-based players have a different attitude and they edge out our local boys with that in the first place. Sometimes the way they do things off the field matters and if it’s a neck and neck battle about their on-field performance – that edge favours overseas based players.
So the player drain will continue because our local rugby is amateur and it will remain like that until more sponsorship dollars are poured in, or somehow the national body gets the Fiji Sports Commission to look at local competitions in all major sports and designs a solution to turn it all semi-professional and keep that growing from strength to strength.
Nadroga proved supreme because of the depth of talent in their squad. They changed players in their side to suit the opposition. The best part about their player rotation was that one player could switch positions week in and week out, but his performance level was right out of the top shelf.
They also had more game time and that proved a vital difference. You can train all day for the whole week, but if you don’t translate that into game time – you will lack the match fitness and that stood out for most teams in the closing part of the HFC Farebrother series.
Well done Nadroga – you deserve to be called the powerhouse of local rugby.