The Farebrother Sullivan Trophy is a challenger series played out by the senior men’s teams participating in the Skipper Cup provincial competition.
Historically, the top 4 senior teams at season end of the Skipper Cup season would qualify to challenge the Fiji Rugby Union Farebrother Trophy Challenge Series with the Fiji Rugby Bainimarama Shield winner getting an opportunity to challenge the Farebrother Trophy as the very final challenge of the year.
In 2020 the Farebrother Trophy was integrated into the Skipper Cup competition. This new addition to the competition now sees the reigning holder put the trophy up for Challenge at their first home game and then the winner of that Challenge becomes the holder of the Trophy. The holder is then challenged at their next home game and so on until the final match of the season.
At the commencement of the new format, Nadroga were the holders, being challenged by Suva at the first game of the 2020 season.
HISTORY : About the Farebrother Sullivan Trophy
The first Official Inter-District trophy in Fiji rugby was presented to the Fiji Rugby Union in 1941 by Messrs JJ Sullivan and AS Farebrother. Originally known as the Sullivan-Farebrother Trophy, media reports from 1950 transposed the name to Farebrother-Sullivan, possibly because Mr Farebrother was still a prominent face in Fiji rugby, while Mr Sullivan had died in the early 1940s.
The Unions at the time were Suva, Rewa, Vatukoula, Northern Districts (later split to form the Lautoka and Northern Unions) and Lomaiviti, but during the war years only three or four unions competed regularly. Often, the tournament would be played on a holiday weekend with the semi-finals on Saturday and the final on the Monday.
In 1951, with the early rounds were divided into Southern and Northern Zones, a young Josefa Levula scored four tries in the final as the Northern Districts triumphed 12-5 to break Suva’s 10 year stranglehold on the trophy. A record crowd of more than 3,000 turned up at the Buckhurst Park for the match.
Levula made his Fiji debut later that year on the tour to New Zealand.
This zonal format was followed for two more years before it became a challenge trophy along the same line as New Zealand Ranfurly Shield.
Nadroga added their name to the trophy in 1957 with a narrow 8-6 win over Suva. But Nadro lost the next match in 1958 to the newly formed Nadi union, who were taking to the field for the first time after breaking away from Lautoka.
Nadi, incidentally, played 10 representative matches in their first two seasons, an unheard of thing in those days, and, by organising the now defunct Western Union competition, laid the foundation of the present representative programme.
In 1964, Lautoka became the fifth union to win the Farebrother with a surprise 6-3 triumph over Nadi. But the Maroons handed it back to Nadroga in the following match.
Nadroga dominated the competition throughout the 1970s, capturing the trophy from Nadi in August 1971 and staving off all challengers until September 1979.
Only Nadro and Nadi enjoyed the honour of holders from 1980 through to 1988, before Suva began their three-year grip on the trophy after beating Nadi 15-4 at Prince Charles Park for their first win in the competition for 20 years.
The newly formed Naitasiri union won the trophy at the first time of asking in July 1998 when they beat Nadroga 25-18 at Lawaqa Park.
Colonial took over the sponsorship at the end of 2001, a move that brought the old trophy back after nearly a decade of gathering dust under the Nadi treasure bed.
A tabacco company had earlier forced their own replacement cup upon a penniless FRU in 1993, but Colonial’s sponsorship allowed the original trophy to be restored.
In June 2002, Ovalau produced one of the biggest shocks of all-time to become just the seventh holder in the trophy’s 61-year history with a 17-13 win over Lautoka just one year after being promoted to life as a major union.
Namosi, who themselves had only risen to the top flight in 1998, followed suit by defeating Ovalau in Levuka to take the Farebrother to Navua.
And in 2003, Tailevu became the ninth team to get their hands on the fabled trophy.
Naitasiri were the 2018 holders and Nadroga in 2019.