Suva (Fiji Times) – IT’S Hong Kong Sevens, the mother of all the sevens tournaments and the most exciting of them all.
Most of Fiji’s famous rugby victories were on Hong Kong dirt and who would forget that controversial semi-final loss to Australia in the inaugural 1976 tourney and first victory in 1977 coached/managed by another Englishman Brian Wightman.
Then the two Sevens World Cup victories in 1997 and 2005 among many others like the 1984 26-0 victory over New Zealand and the three in a row of 1990, 1991 and 1992 coached by the late Ratu Kitione Vesikula.
Apart from that there are several other wins or losses still fresh in the memories of those who took part in it, now retired and hearts thumping and adrenalin pumping just reading this and being reminded of those unforgettable moments.
They were exciting times forged in the memories of rugby fans and one of the heroes of Hong Kong was the late Seru Rabeni, who ruled the midfield like the rugby warrior he was.
In 1977 there was no television then and Fijian fans were glued to their transistor radios hanging on every word by radio commentator Graham Eden on Radio Fiji.
Narewa Nadi’s Vuata Narisia and speedy winger Robert Howard were the try-scoring heroes. Both now work and reside in Sydney, Australia. If an all-time Fijian sevens team was named they would be front runners in their positions.
The last time we met Narisia still looks the same lanky fit forward he was, working in the railways while Narata, Nadroga man Howard had not changed much still carrying that springy steps that saw him zoom past defenders like comic hero the Flash.
But the sunlight was glinting hard up north and west, a combination of genetics and probably a memento every fast winger receives because they run so fast into the wind it’s similar to a Category 5 cyclone.
When old-timers now and again reminisce about famous events in history they usually ask, ‘do you remember where you were when John Kennedy was assassinated, or when Cassius Clay knocked out Sonny Liston or when Fiji won the Melrose Cup’.
For this writer the 1977 victory is still vivid in the mind because of a funny incident.
The old Fiji Sun newspaper office, where I was a cadet reporter was located where Deoji Footwear is now.
The radio was in the front counter and I left my desk from further back to follow Eden’s commentary of the final.
A police constable patrolling Marks St heard the commentary as he went past and came through and stood on the other side of the counter. It was around 10pm.
Having never met before and never known each other we at first stood silently at the different sides of the counter.
But as the tries came one after the other we started celebrating and shaking hands over the counter not yet knowing each other’s name. When the final whistle blew and Eden’s hoarse voice faded into the night we were shaking hands and yarning like long lost friends.
He was from Vanua Levu and he later became a police Inspector and still remains a good friend.
Our friendship was such that when he was transferred to the West he asked me and his tauvu from Gau to occupy his flat up Toorak.
Vodafone Sevens team coach Ben Ryan has been given the task to lead us into the next rung up the ladder and achieve the highest no other Fijian team has achieved and that is to win a gold medal in the Olympics.
Like every other Fijian coach through the years he has gone through the rough and tumble of adverse public opinion when the team loses and great celebration when the team wins.
Hong Kong and Singapore are the second last lap of the HSBC Sevens series before we hit the home stretch in Glasgow and London.
Generally Fijian rugby fans have shown great appreciation of Ryan’s achievement so far and the consistency of results and position on the points table.
He has so far revolutionised some traditional mental aspects of the game and the game is growing. It is up to everyone involved to store up the lessons learnt to build on for the future for local clubs or national duties.
But for the next week or so get your cardiac exercises going and medicine ready because it’s Hong Kong fever once again. Go Fiji Go