The recent debut of three Fijians in separate Tier One nation teams has highlighted the fact that the Fiji Rugby Union is sitting on a wealth of resources that if tapped dilligently and frugally will bring dividends in abundance.
Sevu Reece scored a spontaneous try after he booted a Jordie Barret angled place kick that was directed and controlled for him to sprint past a handful of Wallabies for his All Blacks introduction touch down in the 36-0 drubbing in the Bledisloe II Auckland showdown on Saturday night.
Naitasiri native Alivereti Raka scored his five-pointer in the first minute of his unveiling at the capacity crowd at Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice, France; aiding his Les Bleus team thrash Scotland 32-3 in a one sided affair on Sunday night.
Another Naitasiri footballer Isi Naisarani debuted at Johannesburg in his green and gold strip against South Africa last month gleaning praise and accolades from the players and coach Michael Cheika matching the physicality of the burly Springboks forwards as a number 8.
Naisarani was baptised in the highly competitive Bledisloe Cup inferno a fortnight ago and was in the thick of the exchanges in the annihilation of the All Blacks 47-26 in Brisbane, but the experience would put him in the right frame of mind that the Kiwis had chinks in their armour and beatable.
The trio grew up in their motherland Fiji where they learned their rugby basics before being groomed in a professional environment before their big splash in the international scene.
The national sevens team have proven with professional guidance with coaches and with basic gear for training reach the highest level in winning the HSBC World Rugby sevens series and a gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The gathering of players from professional setups all over the globe is satisfactory and has seen mixed results at the Rugby World Cup but it is high time a practical goal of a semi-professional system introduced in the country and region.
The advent of professionalism in 1995 after the RWC in South Africa has seen the Tier One nations utilise their lucrative television audiences earning revenues that Tier Two nations in the South Pacific could only drool over.
Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and a fourth country in Papua New Guinea with immense resources could combine to uncover ways forward for the training and competition to advance our game.
The traditional ties with Australia and New Zealand are over. These two countries with their focus on potential revenue targets have left Fiji, Tonga and Samoa on the wayside for their own advancement in courting South Africa with SANZAR and Argentina in the Rugby Championship.
Before the Super 12 competition was launched in 1996, the top two teams in the PNC of Tonga and Western Samoa were included in the three year Super 10 competition from 1993-1995 with teams from Australia, New Zealand and the recent Apartheid free South Africa.
With the introduction of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV in 1995, the PNC nations have been left to fend for themselves, yet poaching their top players, willing to allegedly bend the rules in instances with versatile winger Rupeni Caucau to pull on the black strip.
Sevu Reece chose the black strip over the white one which is his choice; the same goes for Naisarani with the green and gold; and Raka for Les Bleus; with the paychecks, insurance coverage and facilities to train in there is no comparison.
But Fiji Rugby needs to rise above the World Rugby handouts from the HSBC sevens series and the loose change from the Rugby World Cup coffers with the bigger chunks go back to the Tier One nations who already have big revenue from their own national competition in self serving fashion.
With the Israel Folau case pending, British newspapers have revealed that Rugby Australia could go bankrupt if Folau wins his $10 million lawsuit in damages for his wrongful termination on religious rights grounds in expressing his views.
Fiji could easily raise four times more with some marketing know how and with Tonga, Samoa and PNG raise enough revenue to organise a league that is practical and beneficial for the unions involved.
With our players training and playing together for a whole season, our unions will get better and stronger.