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Itatau The Fiji Pearls Netball Team to the Netball World Cup, 2019 - LiverPool, England

July 3, 2019       State House, Suva

Na I-Talatala Reverend Captain Viliame Tunidau,

The President of Netball Fiji – Ms. Wainikiti Bogidrau,

The Team Manageress - Ms. Ruci Nasemira,

Netball Fiji Head Coach – Ms. Vicki Wilson,

The Team Captain - Una Rauluni,

Players and Officials of the Fiji Pearls,

Ladies and gentlemen.

Ni sa bula vinaka, a very good morning and warm greetings to you all.

I wish to thank the good Reverend for the inspirational and spiritual message shared with us this morning.

Once again and as usual, I am indeed honoured and it is such a pleasure to receive, on behalf of Government and the people of Fiji, our National netball team - to the Netball World Cup in Liverpool.

I am aware that Fiji finished 4th in the Cadbury Netball Series in New Zealand last week and since that competition, the team is now ranked 17th under the International Netball Federation.
Congratulations and Thank you for your gallant effort in representing Fiji.

I also understand that in this forthcoming Netball World Cup you are going to be playing against some of the best in the world from Jamaica, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago; teams that are ranked higher than you, but I believe that nothing is impossible so do not be disheartened as I am confident that you all possess that special and unique “Fijian Bula Spirit”, that Winning Spirit, that our beloved nation is reknowned for. 

I have been informed that this is the youngest Fijian team to compete at the World Cup with an average cap of ten (10) point two (2) and an average age of twenty (20), meaning that a few of you are under twenty (20) years of age and will therefore qualify to again represent Fiji at the next Netball World Youth Cup that will be hosted here in Fiji. In addition, about half of this team represented Fiji at the Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana in 2017, where Fiji finished in fourth place at that competition. That was indeed a most commendable effort.

This is very encouraging because it also indicates a proud and competitive spirit that is now becoming a signature trait for our nation. Having young athletes/sports men and women compete in international tournaments give them the opportunity to develop quickly as they are exposed to a faster-paced playing environment where they will be expected to play smarter and be more agile, determined and focussed during competitions at a higher level. This also results in more exposure which builds confidence in young players. Moreover, engaging our youth in these tournaments conveys a strong message of hope and belief in our young people who are going to be our future sports ambassadors and leaders in future. 

Netball like rugby requires team work and an unshakeable passion to win – a team journey where you will be expected to play as a team and at the same time, collectively or on your own – to make good sports men and women for our beloved Fiji. By all means enjoy yourselves whilst you compete against your opponents and at the same time learn as much as you can, respect your opponents and be thankful and humble in victory – and also be gracious in defeat.

As I had reminded our ambassadors to the Pacific Games last week - I want you to know that you are not alone in your efforts to do well in sports for yourselves, your families and our beloved nation.

I am informed that the objective of this tour is “To take part in this world pinnacle event for Netballers around the globe”. 

As President and Head of State, let us all continue to thank Almighty God for the talents that He has blessed this nation with, as we endeavour to stamp our mark in the Sporting World. Fiji, as a Nation, is punching well above its weight in the leadership roles we are taking on in a number of socio-political/economical initiatives, in the global community and in the promotion and maintenance of our enviable and proud achievements in the sporting arena as well.

Recently, we have officiated and chaired some of the largest gatherings of countries around the world, and just two days ago the Honourable Attorney General Chaired the Joint Committee on Remuneration of Executive Directors and Alternate Executive Directors of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).  Earlier in May, Fiji hosted the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Governors.

We are also leading the charge in keeping our Oceans clean for a sustainable future. And, in the wake of, Fiji being Chair at the 23rd Session of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change or COP23 in 2017, Fiji, through its Permanent Representative to the United Nations (PRUN) in New York and Fiji’s High Commissioner in London, joined members of thirty-one Small Island Developing States, to represent Fiji at the “Our Oceans Wealth Summit” that was hosted two weeks ago at Cork in Ireland by the Republic of Ireland.

The Honourable Prime Minister officiated at the first-ever United Nations (UN) Habitat Assembly roundtable discussions on Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action (ICLA) in Nairobi, Kenya in May.

Our love of sport is confirmed very strongly amplified in the philosophies, the strategies, outcomes, and the messages we convey in these important international gathering-----about our concern for humanity and our prowess as World Champions in some of the International Sporting Competitions in which we had participated in. 

As we tell you “not to drop the ball’’, we are also calling on the world not to drop the ball, or perform “blind passes” on major issues like Climate Change, which is currently affecting and threatening humanity’s existence.

We are calling on the world to work as a team - and a winning team at that. We are telling the world that we can overcome some of our global challenges, only if we combine our efforts and work to our strengths as a global community.

I encourage you to embrace the very unique Fijian traditional “Vanua, Matanitu kei na Lotu, Spirit of Oneness”.

Congratulations once again for ‘making the cut’ and being selected into our Fiji Pearls Netball Team. You are the envy of many young women/girls for many a called – but only a few are chosen, Well done.

At this juncture, I would like to commend and thank your Coaches and Team Officials who have worked equally hard in preparing you for the mammoth task ahead – thank you and vinaka vakalevu.

It would be remiss of me if I do not also acknowledge and thank your Families, Friends and Corporate Sponsors, Digicel Fiji and Punjas Limited for their invaluable support.

I also encourage you to be good and great ambassadors for Fiji both on and off the field.

It is my honour to accept your i-Tatau today and to convey to you Fiji’s collective best wishes for a successful Tournament.

Be assured that our Prayers and thoughts are with you as you depart our shores.

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