iTatau by the Australian Football League (Fiji), Australia.
July 31, 2017 State House, Suva.
The Manager for the Men’s Team – Mr. Maciu Raida;
The Manager for the Women’s Team – Mr. Saula Tuilevuka;
The Coach for the Men’s Team, Mr. Simon Highfield;
The Coach for the Women’s Team, Mr. Brenton Harris;
Players and Officials;and
Ladies and gentlemen.
Ni sa bula vinaka, good afternoon and warm greetings to you all.
I am honoured to receive you this afternoon on behalf of Government and the people of Fiji.
I am doubly honoured to be the first President and Head of State to receive the iTatau from Fiji’s national athletes in this unique sport - the Australian Football or Aussie Rules, or Footy as they call it in Australia.
With Fiji being a sport-loving Nation, it is most encouraging that you have established the sport in the country because this will give more Fijians the opportunity to try out another exciting sport.
I say this because I had tried playing Aussie Rules when I was studying in Australia some years back. I only wish I had more time to play the game, which I am fully aware, has become among the most popular sports in Australia.
Like all other national teams that have presented their i-tatau, I keep reminding them that Fiji may not have the luxury of material resources that other more developed nations have. But, we certainly possess a good sporting spirit. We love to play. And of course we love to win.
I have learnt with great interest that the Australian Football League established a branch in Fiji in 2009, but the first efforts to establish the sport here were made by the Australian Police Officers based in Suva in 2004.
I am told that Fiji has been competing in the International Cup since 2011, with the Men’s Fiji Tribe team winning the second division in the same year and the Women’s Fiji Vonu Team making a first appearance in 2014.
I have been informed that the Men’s Fiji Tribe team was ranked 12th in 2011 and progressed to 10th rank in 2014. Congratulations on your improved performance.
The Women’s Vonu Team is currently on 5th place. Congratulations also to you.
I have every confidence that you will have a successful outing at the International Australian Football Competition, held in Melbourne from 5 to 19 August.
I also believe that you will proudly showcase the daring Fijian spirit in the tournament and improve on your ranking.
So, I accept your iTatau today, on behalf of our beloved Nation, with our collective encouragement and best wishes for a successful tour.
The Nation is confident that you have done the hard yards in training and preparation and it is now time to perform and deliver to the best of your ability. I acknowledge here the role of your coaches and officials and I thank them for their efforts.
I wish to advise that as a team representing Fiji, you are not alone in your efforts to stamp our mark in the international arena.
Fiji is also taking on bigger roles and responsibilities with issues like Climate Change where we are the incoming President, the global effort to keep our Oceans clean and sustainable, our Presidency of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly and our recent chairmanship of the Group of 77 plus China.
We are clearly sending an important message to the world that we are not to drop the ball, or not to perform blind passes on major issues like climate change, which is already affecting humanity’s very existence.
We are collectively reminding the world that we believe in a winning team and that a win in this journey can only happen if we combine our efforts and work to our strengths.
On this occasion, I wish to congratulate you all for your selection into our National Men’s and Women’s AFL (Fiji) teams. To the coaches and officials, I commend and acknowledge your effort in preparing the team physically, technically, psychologically and spiritually.
I always remind national teams as they present their i-Tatau that you are to be great ambassadors for Fiji both on and off the field, and that you should always fly our flag with pride.
You will depart our shores this week with our Nation’s collective best wishes.
May God Bless you all, your respective families, and our beloved Nation - Fiji.