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Receiving The Itatau From The Fijian Drua Rugby Union Team

August 28, 2017       Borron House, Suva

The Chief Executive Officer of the Fiji Rugby Union, Mr. John O’Connor
The Coach of the Fijian Drua Team, Mr. Senirusi Seruvakula
The Team Manager, Mr. Aseri Tabuawaiwai
Players and Officials
Reverend Aminiasi Radrodro
Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen

Ni sa bula vinaka, and a very good afternoon to you all.

I am honoured to receive, on behalf of Government and the people of Fiji, our Fijian Drua Rugby Team that will represent Fiji at the inaugural participation in the Australian National Rugby Championship.

I welcome your visit to present your iTatau in the same manner and spirit that I have welcomed all the National Teams that have come before you.

I congratulate all of the players for your selection into the Fijian Drua Team.

As a former player and now an avid follower of rugby, I am quite impressed with the choice of name for the team.

The “Drua” is known as the most finely crafted Fijian canoe. It is the largest and fastest and our ancestors had always considered the Drua as their vessel of choice for travelling long distances including especially for battle. The Drua’s strength gave them significant confidence to overcome whatever challenges they came across in their voyages across the vast Pacific Ocean.

I have no doubt that the choice of the Drua as the name of the Team to the Australian NRC is aimed at encouraging you to draw strength from the usefulness of the Drua canoes.

If you combine this with seeking divine inspiration from Almighty God as Reverend Radrodro alluded to a moment ago, I have every confidence that you will succeed with your aims to perform exceptionally well throughout the Championship.

At this juncture, I acknowledge the great effort and sacrifices you have all made so that you can be part of the team. I am also pleased to see this team is made up of all local players and many have represented the country in the Flying Fijians team.

I also acknowledge the hard work that your coaches and officials have put towards your preparation for our inaugural entry into this high-level competition.

I am aware that this team will play against Brisbane City and Melbourne Rising on this trip abroad before playing your first home game against the New South Wales Country Eagles at the Lawaqa Park.

You all know too well how important rugby is to our Nation. This is one sport that can bring all our people together, especially as we are the Olympic champions in Seven-a-Side Rugby.

Rugby is no longer just a game; it is a means for a better life for your families. It is increasingly an important contributor to our country’s economic growth.

There are young boys and girls around Fiji who have been inspired by our victory in Rio last year; you were inspired at one time watching our team’s performance here and abroad. The success of the past is the platform laid down for you.

You are going as a team and not as individuals. You also go as sports ambassadors for our country. You carry the reputation of our nation on your shoulders. Please do this with dignity and honour.

In addition to accepting your iTatau today, I also encourage you to be champions not only in the field of rugby, but also in life in general.

I especially invite you to join me in promoting wellness and healthy living so that we could save our families, friends and fellow Fijians from Non-Communicable Diseases.

NCDs account for eighty percent of deaths in Fiji. Our people are making the wrong choices such as eating unhealthy foods, excessively drinking alcohol, smoking and by being physically inactive.

In fact, our people are not only dying from NCDs, but many continue to suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart attack, stroke, and cancer, among other forms of NCDs. The unnecessary suffering and deaths could be avoided if we all choose a healthier lifestyle.

As elite rugby players, you could be great role models for our young people. You already have a disciplined lifestyle to remain in the best physical form. Please join me as champions in the ongoing campaign to eliminate NCDs.

I also encourage you to champion other worthy endeavours like promoting the cause of children with cancer and promoting the safety of our children, girls and women.

Many children with cancer need financial support for treatment and rehabilitation. Similarly, our children and women need to be protected from all forms of physical and mental abuse.

As you progress with your rugby careers and as you progress in life, I invite you to consider championing these worthy causes because we want to build a Nation that is not only very good in sports, but a Nation that is equally good in all aspects of life. This is very important for our children and for our beloved Nation- Fiji.

As Fiji’s Head of State, I wish to pass to you this afternoon the blessings of our Nation so that you may not only play well but that you will also be great sons of Fiji.

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