Plans to regenerate the Pacific Islands’ Rugby scene has taken a step forward recently, which I’m sure is quality news for the faces in the Islands’ Rugby community and general community alike, as the plan will regenerate Fiji’s Port Denarau Marina located very close to the Island’s airport, undoubtably bringing more tourism and jobs to the small Island. This project comes from the long term player flow going out of the Pacific Islands into the world’s top clubs across Europe and other Rugby loving locations such as Australia and New Zealand; if you’re from one of these nations which has a strong fund in Rugby you may not see where the problem lies, but it in fact falls deeper than good young players in the league.
Although it is not all bad, as plan is looking to be put into action as four global companies and two kit brands have promised to fund the campaign worth a rather hefty £20m, in part of the plan to turn around this problem and create “the best club side in World Rugby” by establishing a Super Rugby franchise in Fiji, but being the best will take some doing considering some of the talent we see week in week out on our telly’s! The plan may seem big, but it is essential if the Pacific Islands plan on switching the flow of players from the Islands, back into the Island. A whopping 19% of total players in the game are from the Islands or are from Pacific Island descent, so shouldn’t we be seeing top players over there?
As this may seem like a good thing, majority of the players are leaving their home nation in a quest for bigger things; going to different countries in the search for their door into the professional game. But as Olympic-winning coach Ben Ryan stated to the BBC earlier this year, they are being led across seas by; “crooked agents” who take the young athletes hope based on; “false promises”. Although, this is not always the case, as with Waisake Naholo, who moved from Fiji to New Zealand at the age of 17, and is now an essential cog in the All Blacks side.
As everything, this also has its downside, this is a prime example of players being of multiple heritages, leading to them having the choice to make on who to represent on a national level, and that is most definitely not good news for Islanders all over, as the young lads are most likely going to pick the larger/more successful nation, and at the minute, the Pacific Islands aren’t doing too good, with the likes of Fiji taking a big knock in their 40-7 loss against the Baa-Baas on Friday.
Digressing from Fiji’s appalling performance at the weekend, as clubs look to net the next young phenomenon, where’s the first place that they look? The Islands… And as a nice pay cheque and a big house sound good to the youth, that is not completely the case, as players are being scouted not on skill but on physical features such as size and weight, which means poorer standards. As one European club scout stated, in fact, one club asked him to get “a freak” and they weren’t going to pay a hefty price tag. This has undoubtably led to players with poor feet and a bad case of butter fingers breaking into the game; leaving lads with talent up to their eyes in the dark and wondering what to do, which to me is wrong, it’s like getting a child to do your plumbing just because it’s cheaper, why not pay more and get the proper young talent?!
Hopefully this will not be the case in the years to come, with the plan in full swing, you can hopefully catch “the best club side in the world” in 2018 at their brand new 20,000 seat stadium…