Tu Te's Diary - Wellington and Las Vegas
01 February, 2011
Sunday, 30 January
|Digicel Fiji 7s team manager, Ratu Tevita Waqairawai. |
Bula Vinaka to you all.
Firstly I would like to thank Digicel for its tremendous support, being the proud Sponsors of the Digicel Fiji 7s Team, I would also like to thank the New Zealand High Commission and the United States Embassy for facilitating the issuing of visas.
The Digicel Fiji 7s team left Suva at about 2:30pm Sunday afternoon on its way to Nadi with western based players making their way down to Nadi Skylodge Hotel. Everyone was in high spirit and all in good health and injury free.
The first order of the afternoon started with the team lotu followed by team briefing on traveling and tour program. The tour rules and players nominated enforcers were finalized. Team management stressed the important task at hand and players were reminded to remain focused on the objective of successfully defending the Wellington 7s title.
The team later had dinner at the Chit Chat Restaurant at Colonial Plaza in Waqadra and then it was back to the Skylodge for a good night’s sleep. Monday, 31 January
The team had an early morning gym session at 6:00am down at the HPU gym in Nadi followed by morning breakfast at Chit Chat.
By 9:00 am the team was already at the Nadi Airport checking in with Air New Zealand.
With the current restriction to baggage, the local Air New Zealand staff were very helpful in assisting the team with its medical and team baggage access.
The team was later farewell by FRU Board member Mr Meli Tora who reminded the players of the task at hand.
With all family members and well wishers giving their final hugs and kisses, the team made their way through customs to board their Air New Zealand flight NZ 753 bound for Auckland.
The three and a half hour flight to Auckland was a pleasant one with most team members taking short nap. On arrival a cool Auckland breeze welcomed the players and lifted the mood of the team while going through customs formalities.
Then it was off to board our domestic flight to Wellington. Two other teams joined us on the flight to Wellington - the Tongans and the Americans.
All teams pretty much kept to themselves which is not surprising considering that within the next couple of days all teams will be fighting it out at the Wellington 7s.
On arrival in Wellington a traditional Maori welcoming group, made up of local students, was there greet the three teams. The students performed traditional songs and dances to welcome the team before everyone shock hands and greeted each other in the Maori way - the men rubbing noses and the ladies a peck on the cheek.
The team was than whisked off to the James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor by our liaison officers, Mike Kilioni and John. At the hotel the team went through the formalities of settling in before grabbing a quick dinner.
After dinner it was off to Taranaki Church to attend a church service organized by the Fijian Community in Wellington to welcome the team.
The Taranaki Church has the largest Fijian congregation in New Zealand and hosts services for all denominations.
A powerful sermon to welcome the team was conducted by Reverend Luke Mudu who focused his message on Daniel 11:32 – ‘Champions don’t quit they preserve and accomplish notable feats’. What a welcome and inspiration to the team.
The team later met with the Fijian Community in Wellington that were present that evening and were later hosted to a sumptuous dinner while team management performed the team sevusevu and exchanged other traditional protocols with the men from the community.
Next it was back to the hotel for a good night’s rest after a long day of flying and travelling.
More tomorrow. Take care all. Tuesday 1st February 2011
After a well rested night the team was up at 7:00am and began the day with a lotu
session before doing 45 minutes of stretching and flexibility then it was breakfast on our first day at the James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Wellington.
The food catering is just superb and players were monitored on diet to keep away from red meat.
Straight after breakfast players needing strapping were attended to by our Physio/Doctor, William Koong before the team left for Melrose Park for a warm up game with the Wellington Fijian team lead by Api Naikatini at 10:00am.
The training session was what the team needed after the long trip the day before to be able to get blood and adrenaline flowing again. It was also a good opportunity to get the team to brush up and polish their moves and the Wellington Fijians provided good opposition under the windy conditions of Wellington.
A good number of Fijian supporters turned up to support our boys. After training the team jumped into their ice bath and it was back to the hotel for lunch. The team had the afternoon off and medicals at 8:00pm before lights out for the night. Wednesday 2nd February 2011
The team did the same routine early morning as yesterday. I and coach Tanivula attended the managers' meeting with the organizer of the tournament. For me it was my first time so I was excited to be able to brush shoulders with the biggest names in 7s rugby like Gorden Tiejens etc.
The briefing covered information regarding the logistics of the tournament. Also raised were some reviews from the Dubai and George Series with regards to penalties and in particular the enforcing of three key areas in this leg and they are:
- coming through the gate
- proper technique of binding by both the tight and the loose head props during scrums (that they must hold on to the jersey of the opposition)
- and at the breakdown the assisting player should form a proper bridge.
Any team committing these errors will be penalized during this tournament. Other issues were discussed than it was breakfast.
The team reviewed the three points from footage shown at the Manager’s meeting which I was able to secure during their Video Analysis session at 9:00am before departing for another training run with the Papua New Guinea team at the Melrose ground.
There was some rain early in the morning however the weather turned around again before midday. The team looking much sharper and moves are being executed with much more pace and precision. Everything is working out the way coach and the assistant coach want from the players to do in the field of play.
After training the team had their ice bath and everyone was back at the hotel for lunch.
After lunch the team set out for the next engagement on their program which was to have a session at the gym than it was departure for an afternoon tea hosted by the Head of Fiji High Commission office in Wellington, Mrs. Mere Tora and the former Fiji High Commissioner Mr Bal Ram.
The team enjoyed meeting the staff of the Fiji High Commission and were inspired by the words of welcome from Mrs. Mere Tora and Mr Bal Ram.
The team returned to the hotel and had a free afternoon to relax.
Before dinner the team held its first court cession which was presided by Judge Emosi Vucago and Watisoni Votu, it was a hilarious session and a break for players to hear cases of the various committee on charges to team members and imposing of fines. The team rooms had been out of bound to visitors and it’s good to see that it has remained so.
Tomorrow will be the parade of nations at 12:00 noon through Wellington until than good night and god bless from windy wellington. Thursday 3rd February 2011
Kia ora, this morning the team had an early pool session at 7:30 am before heading for breakfast at 8:30 am before relaxing the rest of the morning.
At 12:30 pm the team walked down to Wellington Main Street to join all the other teams for the march through Wellington City. Each team had their own trailer that followed each other with the rest of the supporters walking along them in various colorful costumes.
As usual the Wellington business district came to a standstill to honor the 16 teams participating in the NZ International 7s.
The team procession snaked its way through the main city streets to the town square were the teams were welcomed by the officials of the City of Wellington.
Our boys each carried a Digicel ball during the parade and gave the ball away to special kids who were delighted with the gift.
After the Parade it was back to the hotel, at 6:30 pm the team had its lotu
session where Reverend Timoci Mudu again fired up the team with his sermon on Psalm 20 before performing the honor of praying over the team gear and handing them to each of the players.
A DVD compilation on Fiji’s game in Hong Kong and Wellington was played to inspire the team. The boys are in high spirit with no injuries and are ready for battle. Dinner followed immediately before the boys took an early rest to be ready for tomorrow. Friday 4th February 2011
The moment everyone is waiting for has arrived. The team woke up for breakfast at 6:00am than spent the morning relaxing and mentally preparing for the first game in the afternoon against France.
10:00 am was strapping time before the team departed for a blow out at 12:00 noon than headed to the grounds for its first match against France. By then the traditional Wellington festival atmosphere at the grounds was beginning to pick up its tempo. You name it, it’s all there, weird dressing, cross dressing, intergalactic etc was the fashion and booze and more booze in a sea of colors.
Fiji played very well in the first game with France and showed the French our skills and combination with all the players combining well with both defense and attack, Fiji came through with a 42–nil win against France.
The second game with Canada had a similar outcome and Fiji’s attack and defense was the telling factor. In the end Fiji convincingly beating Canada by 36–nil.
The final pool game with South Africa was a different encounter. Fiji started started well tkaing a 7-nil lead at half time. However a lapse in concentraion allowed the South Africans back in the game and the game in the end finished in a tie.
One thing that stood out was Fiji's strong defense, however players will need to control thier composure much better to enable in the games ahead.
Digicel Fiji will now play Samoa during the Cup Quarterfinals, good night and see you all tomorrow. Saturday 5th of February 2011
The team woke up at about 9:00am this morning and had our lotu
session which was conducted by Reverend Ratabacaca before having a late breakfast by 9:30am. At 10am the team had a light pool session just to get the blood flowing before it was back to the hotel for strapping at 11:00am.
The team settled in for a quick video analysis of the games played the night before preparing to depart for a team blowout at 1:00 PM. After the team blowout the team made its way to the grounds to prepare for the quarterfinals with Samoa.
The quarterfinal game with Samoa did not start well for the boys, some moments of hesitation and pressure saw Samoa taking advantage of the situation and scoring two quick tries in the first half. A missed opportunity in the last moment of the first half denied Fiji a crucial try when Mitieli’s pass to Ilai Tinai went forward with no Samoan defender in sight.
The second half was a torrid encounter when in the first two minutes Jerry Burotu was cited for a dangerous tackle and given a red card. The strain on playing 6 players took its toll on our boys and we were only able respond with a try while Samoa tried its utter most best to contain the attacking Fijians.
In the end Samoa came through and ended Fiji’s effort to proceed to the semis with a 12 -5 victory.
Fiji was relegated to the Plate semi finals beating Argentina 28-nil and eventually beating South Africa 24–12 in the Plate Finals.
Later on in the evening a judiciary hearing was conducted for Jerry Burotu’s red card and present from the Fiji camp was Jerry Burotu, coach Iliesa Tanivula his assistant Jo Savou and myself.
Given the nature of the offence, we had to mitigate on Jerry’s behalf and a lesser penalty of a two match stand down was handed to Jerry based on his first ever sighting and good track record since participating in the last three series.
The team later evaluated its performance in the evening before having dinner and talking a break from the hectic 2 day competition. Sunday 6th February 2011
Today was a relaxing day, the team woke up at 9:00 am had our lotu
session before heading for the pool session for a recovery than breakfast. After breakfast the team had an evaluation of the last two days performance using video analysis and team management also had a meeting to evaluate and assess the injuries to the team.
Later a decision was made on working out the replacements for Apisai Navuoru who had an injured shoulder and Semesa Gonevou for his lower back. As per IRB rules and regulations these injuries had to be signed off and verified by a doctor and this was done by Dr Sai Boladuadua who is based in Wellington.
The two players were given the news in the presence of the team management and the team captain Emosi Vucago as the representative of the players with both players accepting their fate to return to Fiji and to be replaced by Nikola Matawalu and Waqa Kotobalavu.
Later on in the evening, the team attended the farewell lotu
at Taranaki Methodist Church and dinner hosted by the Fijian Community in Wellington before heading back to the hotel to pack and prepare to travel to Las Vegas the next day. Monday 7th February 2011
The team woke up at 7:30am had our lotu
session had breakfast before departing for weight training at 9:00am, returning to hotel at 11:30am before having lunch at 12:00 noon.
After lunch it was checking out time with luggage being transferred to the lobby area and team finally departing the James Cook Hotel at 2:45pm. At the airport final arrangements were made for the return trip to Fiji for Apisai Navuoru and Semesa Gonevou while the rest of the group made ready for Las Vegas.
The team departed Wellington at 5:00pm for Auckland via flight NZ 458 arriving in Auckland in one hour at 6:00pm than boarded flight NZ 6 for Los Angeles arriving at LA at 10:15 am. At 1:10 pm the team left LA via flight UA 378 for Las Vegas arriving at 2:30 pm.
Our two liaisons officers, Matt and Matthew were on standby to pick up the team and it was off to the Hard Rock Hotel after customs and immigration clearance. Upon arrival to the Hard Rock Hotel the first order of business were discussions with the LOs for the team programme, then the team had a meeting to also discuss plans for Las Vegas.
The team later had a pool session in the afternoon before settling for our lotu
session, dinner and it was physio and medical before lights out at 9:00pm for everyone to take a rest after a long day of travel. Tuesday 8th February 2011
The team woke up at 7:00am had a dip at the cold Hard Rock Hotel pool before having breakfast. Straight after breakfast strapping was done before the team headed out for training at 10:45 am at the Sam Boyd Stadium, after training the team had an ice bath before heading for lunch.
Later in the evening the team had a gym session before returning to the hotel to prepare for an invitational dinner by the small Fijian Community in Las Vegas. It was a good break for the boys to attend this dinner function and meeting up with the Fijian Community in Las Vegas. After dinner the team retuned to the hotel, those players needing medicals were attended to by William Koong than it was lights out at 9:00 pm. Wednesday 9th February 2011
The team woke up at 7:00 am had our lotu
session than straight to breakfast before preparing to head out for training at 10:00am. Today the Japan team will be providing us with scrumming so the team looked forward to this encounter. After Fiji's team run the two teams (Fiji and Japan) had a good run without committing real tackles. It was good to see the team sharpening its skills at high pace. After the solid workout the team had its ice bath before heading back to the hotel to attend a lunch invitation from Waisale Serevi.
The lunch invitation was extended to both the Fiji and the Samoan team as part of the launching of Serevi’s sports brand for sports clothing. Each team member from both the Fijian team and the Samoan Team were given the Serevi brand apparel samples as gift. The Samoan Team Manager than gave a thank you speech on behalf of both teams for the invitation.
After lunch the team had a gym session just concentrating on explosive speed and power. After the gym session it was back to the hotel for dinner and in time to meet up with the two replacement players from Fiji. Nikola Matawalu and Waqa Kotobalavu checked in after a long flight from Fiji. Than it was medical/physio before lights out at 9:00 pm. Thursday 10th February 2011
The team woke up at 8:00am had our lotu
session before breakfast than it was strapping before heading out for training.
After a good solid workout out the team had a run with the Kenyan team and the South African team. It was a good solid workout without tackles and the team’s moves are looking sharp and crisp. After training the team prepared to attend the ‘adopt a school program’ with the Saville Middle School for a pep rally. The Saville Middle school as part of their preparation had to do a research on Fiji and part of the rally was for the team to introduce Fiji to the school while the school would also provide all their research information about Fiji.
It was an awesome sight to see the many young faces filling up the gymnasium and our boys did not disappoint the children. The staff of the Fiji Embassy in Washington including HE Mr Winston Thompson was also present to support the effort and it was a total success.
Our boys gave a demonstration of how 7s rugby is played and went on to perform the ‘cibi’
to the delight of the crowd.
The school viewed the DVD on the ‘We are Fiji’ compilation by Danny Costello and the various Fiji artists. The boys came prepared with Digicel rugby balls that were given out to students who could answer questions about Fiji.
At the end of the program, HE Mr Winston Thompson and Emosi Vucago the team captain presented a Fijian wall mounted carving to the principal of Saville Middle School as a token of appreciation of the invitation before the team serenaded to the ‘Isa Isa Vulagi Lasa Dina’ tune to end the function. At about the same time coach Tanivula was conducting a coaching clinic with the Utah Secondary School Rugby team at another venue.
The team returned to the hotel and prepared to attend the march of nations that was held at Fremont Street down town Las Vegas and hosted by the mayor of Las Vegas. The team returned for dinner at 8:00 pm followed by medicals than it was lights out at 9:00 pm. Friday 11th February 2011
Team woke up at 7:00 am had our lotu
and breakfast before preparing for the last training session at 10:00 am. Today the team had a light training run before facing Samoa for a light team run than it was back to the hotel to prepare for lunch hosted by the Fiji Ambassador to Washington HE Mr Winston Thompson at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Present at the lunch were the representatives of corporate bodies like Air Pacific, Fiji Tourism etc that promote Fiji to the US Market and beyond. As usual protocols were followed as the Fiji 7s Manager presented a sevusevu to the Ambassador on behalf of Fiji Rugby and the team. At the end of the lunch group photos were taken with the team before the team returned back to the hotel to prepare for the ground visit at 3:00 pm.
Later on in the evening, the Ambassador was invited to present the jerseys to the players in a moving ceremony. Also present were the staff of the Fiji Embassy to support our boys for the big day tomorrow when the tournament starts.
Due to Ilai Tinai’s unexpected illness, the team management had to make a call to bring in Filimoni Botitu a former Fiji 7s rep residing in US to join the team. Following IRB Rules and Regulation the formality and paper work to execute this change was provided to the IRB officials and it was approved. By the evening, Botitu had joined the Fiji camp. Saturday 12th February 2011
The team woke up this morning at 7:00 am and had our lotu
session before breakfast. After breakfast strapping was done as the team prepared itself for the upcoming games. The team departed for a blowout at 9:00 am before settling into our assigned changing room at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Our first game was against Canada and the boys played really well in all the game defeating Canada convincingly by 31 to nil.
The next game was against Scotland who put pressure on the boys scoring two tries while the boys finished the game with a 31 to 14 victory. The much anticipated encounter with Australia who had bundled Digicel Fiji out of the quarterfinals the year before saw a much more determined and aggressive Fijian side completely overwhelming the much fancied young Australian team and beating them 33 to 10.
In the Cup quarterfinals (the first time its been played on the first day of a tournament) Fiji faced Samoa with both teams letting lose all artillery in the end however it was Fiji who finally redeemed itself from the loss in Wellington by beating Samoa 17-12. Sunday 13th February 2011
The team woke up at 6:00 am had lotu
before breakfast than got into preparation for the games in day 2. The team departed for the usual blowout at 8:00 am then it was straight to the changing room to get ready for the quarter finals with New Zealand.
The best game so far for Fiji was in the Cup semi finals when they convincingly shut out the New Zealand team with a famous 26 – 7 victory.
Having come through the semi finals Fiji was confident of winning the Final against South Africa however early moments of hesitation denied Fiji the chance to settle down and gave South Africa the opportunity to go in for two quick tries.
Having that advantage the South African team continued to frustrate the Fijians and further denied them scoring chances. Fiji tried to mount a comeback but was eventually bundled out losing the finals to South Africa by 24 - 14.
It was a bitter pill to stomach but the lost taught Fiji a lesson to be on alert in every game; committing basic errors provided the opposition the opportunity to take control of the game situation.
The team returned to the Hotel and had dinner before taking a break for the evening. Monday 14th February 2011
Pretty much the majority of the team slept on and missed breakfast waking up after 10:00am still reeling from the fact that the final was within our reach but we lost it. The team reviewed the game against South Africa with mixed feeling but vowed to do better the next time.
The team had a free afternoon and went out with our LO's to do last minute shopping and returned in the afternoon for dinner then lights out at 10:00 pm. Tuesday 15th February 2011
The team woke up at 7:00 am had breakfast and started packing to prepare for our departure. As usual all bills etc were settled before departure to the airport at 9:45 am. Checked in at 10:30am however the flight was delayed for one hour. Shortly after this we were told the hwole UE 757 fleet was grounded. This meant we were forced to spend another two nights in Las Vegas in order to be able to link up to the next connecting flight to Nadi from LA on Friday evening.
We were booked at the Hampton Inn, Las Vegas with cost taken up by United Airline for Tuesday and Wednesday night. Thursday 17th February 2011
The team departed from the Hampton Inn on our way to the airport, the group split up into three, the first group of four flew direct to LA while the second group flew to San Francisco and further split up into two groups on our way to Los Angeles. Everyone arrived in Los Angeles and left together on the Air Pacific flight to Nadi arriving at 5:15 am.
After going through the customers and immigration formalities the team was greeted by Patrick Gock the Referee Manager West from Nadi before BSP and Digicel received the team.
BSP then came forward to issue all players their letter confirming the payment of a total of $13,000 cash to be shared for the handmade heart sign during the Wellington and Las Vegas 7s.
The team broke up with the main body returning to Suva while the western based players went their separate ways to meet their families.
I do hope you've enjoyed the diary and many thanks for reading and supporting the Digicel Fiji 7s team. View Wellington 7s gallery.