PM recalls playing days

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka at the Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s tournament at Prince Charles Park in Nadi. Picture: REINAL CHAND

Prime Minister Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka expects more star players to be produced from Nawaka Village, who will take Fiji rugby to greater heights.

Rabuka was the special guest during the closing ceremony of the 36th Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s tournament at Prince Charles Park in Nadi on Saturday.

The former Flying Fijians rep said over the years Fiji had been enriched and blessed by the prowess of the many sons of Nawaka particularly in rugby.

He said their names were enlisted in the who’s who of Fiji rugby greats.

“People overseas know of them and remember the names of those that graced the rugby fields not only in the Southern Hemisphere but also the Northern Hemisphere,” Rabuka said during his address.

“Their names still bring back great memories of great men, of great players and of great ambassadors of this small nation.

“I would like to remember players such as Sainivalati Laulau, Savenaca Aria, Penisoni Waki and some of the older ones that I had played with.

“We were very keen competitors on the field and great friends off the field.

“One thing I can say with certainty is that Nawaka will continue to produce great rugby players in the years to come.”

Rabuka made his national debut as a prop against Canada at Burnaby Lake, British Columbia on November 28, 1970.

Isimeli Batibasaga (scrum-half), Inoke Buadromo (fly-half), Ravuama Latilevu (centre) and Vuniani Varo (wing) also made their debut alongside Rabuka in the fixture.

Rabuka said he was proud to have been associated with the sport of rugby.

“I played with some great names from Nadi on the tour in 1970,” he said.

“Then we defeated Tonga in the three Tests in 1972 and won the historic match against the British and Irish Lions in 1977.

“I’m honoured to have played with those men.” Rabuka urged the players not to lose hope when they do not make it into the national team.

“We are not only here to develop rugby but also our camaraderie, team work, courage, self-discipline and all elements that build great characters that will create great citizens of this nation,” he said.

“I encourage you all to support our young people in this sport of rugby. I also take time to congratulate the players who are here, the winners and also the losers. For the teams who did not make it through, you will win some day, keep at it.

“If there were no good losers, we would have not developed a good national team.”

The Fiji Development team defeated Kombat Uluinakau in the final to take out the Nawaka 7s cup title.

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