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iTatau Ceremony for the Fiji Airways Fijiana 15s Rugby Team to Australia.

June 6, 2018       Boron House, Suva

The Reverend Ilaitia Sevati Tuwere

The Coach Ro Alivereti Doviverata

The Team Manager Ms. Vela Naucukidi

The Co-Captains and Players

Ladies and Gentlemen

Ni sa bula vinaka, good afternoon and warm greetings to you all.

Thank you Reverend Tuwere for sharing with us a few words of spiritual wisdom and prayer as we farewell our Fiji Airways Fijiana 15s Rugby Team.

It is always a pleasure for my wife Sarote and me to welcome all of Fiji’s national sporting teams that come to present their iTatau. And I thank you all for honouring this traditional practice of seeking the Nation’s blessings. 

I understand that the practice has become a key formality for Fiji’s national teams, since it was introduced decades ago. 

Congratulations to all of you for your selection into our National 15s Women’s Rugby Team. 

I am informed that of the 24 players in the team, 10 are making their debut. This is an excellent opportunity to gain the necessary exposure into international competition, and to gain new knowledge and experience.

Apart from the new players, I am aware that the rest of the team members represented Fiji in 2016, at the Women’s World Cup qualifying rounds in Hong Kong where you played the home team and Japan. 

Congratulations to the co-captains Lailani Burnes and Sereima Leweniqila. Both of you now have the honour of leading your players to achieve the best during this tour. 

I am informed that this is the first time the Fiji Rugby Union is sending a national women’s 15s team on a two-match tour to Australia. 

As the Patron of the Fiji Rugby Union, I am pleased to hear and see that the FRU is breaking ground through the development of women in sports, particularly in the field of rugby. 

May this be a sign of more opportunities to come for our women rugby players.

As young women representing the Nation in the sport of rugby, I consider you to be change agents. This is why I am inviting you, as I have done to all other sports teams, to join me in the fight against Non-Communicable Diseases or NCDs.  NCDs are contributing to the death of over 80 percent of our most productive population – people below the age of 70. NCDs are threat to our families, and they are a threat to our productivity. Ultimately, NCDs are a threat to our Nation. Fiji spends about $400 million annually just to treat NCD-related illnesses. 

Imagine if we have a fit and healthy population. Much of these funds could be re-directed to other developments like youth and sports. We could invest more into our training facilities; into our technical knowledge of our respective sport; and into consistent high-level competitions like the one that you are going to.

We might not just be Olympics champions in 7s Rugby, but we could also be champions in many other sports, including in women’s 15-a-side rugby. More importantly, we will have a fit and healthy Nation. Think about this. Your training programme allows you to have an active lifestyle. I now challenge you to also promote the message of wellness and healthy living, within your own families, your circle of friends, and around the country.

I wish you all the very best, as you leave Fiji tomorrow to play against the Brumbies women’s team on 11th June, and the New South Wales women’s team on 16th June. It has been a year since you have all come together to play as a team, but with the support of the FRU and your sponsors, you will continue to gain momentum as you prepare for the upcoming test matches in preparation for the World qualifiers. 

I encourage you to be great ambassadors for Fiji both on and off the field.  You are representing your country, the Fiji Rugby Union, your sponsors, and your respective families, so fly our flag with pride.

On behalf of the Nation, I convey to you our collective best wishes.

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

Vinaka vakalevu and Thank you all.