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January 26, 2021       State House Conservatory, Suva.

The Fiji National Rugby League Acting CEO – Mr. Don. Natabe;

The Head Coach – Mr. Waisale Naiqama;

The Team Manager –  Ms. Jacqueline Shannon;

Reverend Jiare Viliame;

Players and Officials;

Ladies and gentlemen.

Ni sa bula vinaka, good morning and as we are still in the first month of this New Year, I think it is also apt that I wish you all a Happy and an equally Successful and Enjoyable Sporting Year/2021.

At the outset, Ladies and gentleman, I consider it prudent that I acknowledge and commend Reverend Jiare Viliame for the short inspirational spiritual presentation and prayer that started our Fiji i-Taukei i-Tatau Ceremony this morning.

I always deem it an honour and privilege to receive, on behalf of my wife, Sarote, The Staff, Government and the People of Fiji, all our national sporting teams as they come to present their i-tatau here at The State House prior to departing our shores to represent Fiji in regional and international Sporting Competitions, with the ultimate aim of winning and stamping our Beloved Nation’s name in the annals of Sporting History, as good, sportsmen/women in fact, Sports Ambassadors and World Champions. 

I welcome your visit to the State House today in my capacity as The President/Head of State and Patron of The Fiji Rugby League and in the same spirit that I had always welcomed all our National Teams that had come before you, in our customary Fijian traditional manner.

In welcoming you this morning, I would also like to convey our Nation’s collective Congratulations to each and everyone of you for your success in ‘making the cut’ and be selected into “The Kaiviti Silktails Rugby League Team.

Similarly, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Officials, Coaches and Trainers for your dedication and hardwork in preparing our players now, and more importantly, in ensuring that they remain focussed and committed with their training and play in the weeks/months ahead. It is a big ask, but then, I am certain that you will all rise to the Challenge! I am also reminded of The Biblical phrase; “Many are called, but only a few are chosen” and you are the chosen few whom I am confident will, undoubtedly, do our Beloved Fiji, proud!

Today’s i-tatau in particular is unprecedented as it is being done during a period of socio-political and economical uncertainty consequent upon, the trauma and ravages of The COVID-19 Pandemic and the recent devastation wreaked by Severe Tropical Cyclone YASA

Ladies and gentlemen, despite these setbacks, as Your President, I am convinced that with Almighty God’s Love, Mercies and Blessings, we will overcome and as Sports is one medium in which we can show the rest of Humanity that as Fijians, we are a Resilient People, a Proud, Confident and United Nation – which is “Punching Above our Weight” in addressing some topical and important World Challenges, like the Present, Real and Serious Threat of Climate Change and the Protection/Preservation of Our Oceans and The Environment.

Please be assured that as your Head of State and Patron, I follow our national rugby League teams’ performances with great interest and in this regard, I have been reliably informed that The Kaiviti Silktails Team is Fiji’s National development squad and is the third Rugby League team that is comprised of 100% Fijian Resident players. A commendable great achievement for Fiji Rugby League.

This is indeed, a great achievement for Fiji Rugby League as I believe this is the first time that we are going to participate in an Australian based competition – the Ron Massey Cup which is a 3rd tier Australian Rugby League Competition Arrangement.

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, preparations and the 2020 Competition had to be cancelled – but, I believe that this could have been a blessing in disguise for Fiji Rugby League because it provided us with a much needed period and space for us to prepare well. The Kaiviti Silktails Rugby League Football Club debut against the Windsor Wolves at Churchill Park, Lautoka and a convincing win of 40-16 had been a good start. Congratulations and well done! 

As your Patron, I have every confidence that although we are being graded as a Tier Three (3) Team, our Kaiviti Silktails Rugby League Team has the potential to give any Australian Rugby League Tier One and Two Teams a “hard run for their money” – in other words, on a good day we can triumph over any opposition. 

As your President and Patron of the Fiji Rugby League, it would be remiss of me if, at this juncture, do not acknowledge with humble appreciation and profound gratitude the invaluable and tremendous support of the Australian Rugby League and fans for establishing this new Franchise Club Arrangement with the Australian Government’s Sports Diplomacy Programme in further nurturing and promoting our special Bi-lateral VUVALE Initiative. 

Please look after each other, and I urge you to be great ambassadors for Fiji – Be your Best and play with the knowledge that your Beloved Fiji and People are with you in prayers and good wishes. 

May God Bless you all, your respective families, and our beloved Nation - Fiji.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.