The Fijian women’s team will remember the PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens for many years to come.
Firstly, it was only the third time in history – at that point in time! – that they secured victory against the defending Olympic champions, Australia.
Secondly, and arguably more amazingly, it was the first time in more than 12-months they were able to play in competitions with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on their schedule and ability to train and prepare for Tokyo 2020.
Speaking from Townsville following the historic win over Australia, Fijiana Women’s Rugby Sevens team manager, Vela Naucukidi, said the fact they were able to come to Australia to prepare means so much to the players, but also what it represents for females in Fiji who aspire to play rugby union one day.
“A big vinaka vakalevu to DFAT for making it happen and supporting us financially for this to happen,” Vela said.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle for any athlete in the world. Whether you are an athlete, or an official, it’s the pinnacle of your career in sports.
“It’s a big publicity for us, for women’s rugby and pushing those boundaries. That we are here to stay and that we can also play rugby.
“We’ve been in the shadow of the men’s team for so long and this will also push for the numbers to increase, for more girls to come and join us. Not only for players, but for officials, match officials and coaches, to be a part of this journey.”
Jennifer Wainiqolo, Fijiana Women’s Rugby Sevens physiotherapist, agreed and said the support from the Australian government and #PacificAusSports has been incredible.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from #PacificAusSports and the Australian government and Oceania Rugby as well and we’re extremely grateful,” Jennifer said.
“It’s been more than a year since we’ve had a competition and we’ve had a lot of players come through our development system and this is their first international competition, so for them to be given an opportunity like this, we’re very grateful.
“If it wasn’t for that support, we’d be in Fiji at the moment, in the middle of a pandemic probably been unable to train or participate in any competitions, so we’re overwhelmed.”
As for the historic result and what this means to the players, Rusila Nagasau, has represented Fijiana for a decade and said while they were happy with the results from Townsville, their remains one goal and one goal only.
“We were really happy to get the result. The result we really wanted, to come and win. For us we did our mission. Mission accomplished and we are very happy for that,” Rusila said.
“For me it’s an honour, playing for more than 10 years. Olympics is one of my bucket-lists. I played in the last Olympics; we didn’t get the result.
“But from here onwards we are looking forward to getting the gold medal at the Olympics.”
Through PacificAus Sports, the Australian government and the Australian Olympic Committee will support over 170 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from eleven Pacific nations to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Specifically, the partnership will support an estimated 150 Olympic athletes from the Pacific Island nations of Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu to secure a spot on their respective Olympic Games’ teams.
An additional twenty Paralympic athletes will represent Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands, PNG, Kiribati, Samoa and Tonga at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Article adapted from the Oceania Rugby website.