Fiji is the Get into Rugby Spotlight union for the month of October.
After six months of lockdown due to COVID-19, the Fiji government allowed sports to be played with some form of restrictions. Fiji Rugby Union kick started 2021 Get Into Rugby programme activities around the country on the first day Fiji emerged out of lockdown.
During the course of the 2021 lockdown, the Fiji Rugby Union Development unit continued to deliver online refresher courses and engage volunteers in the planning for sport to commence in Fiji. A critical part of this preparation was to ensure the volunteers had an understanding on the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. The Fiji Government allowed sports to be played with some form of restrictions from October and rugby was prepared to start.
Since lockdown ended over seventy (70) volunteers have visited suburbs, villages and communities around Fiji to run World Rugby’s Get Into Rugby programme in conjunction with the Quick RIP programme that promotes healthy lifestyle, funded by New Zealand Rugby Union through its NZAID program and supported by Oceania Rugby.
According to Lemeki Savua, the Fiji Rugby Union Development Officer in the Northern Division, “the mass participation programs have brought smiles back to the kids in the villages as they begin to play the game, we all love after six months.
“Our reach wouldn’t be possible without the hardworking effort of our rugby volunteers who had endured the elements such as crossing rivers to get to remote villages.
Parents had expressed their support towards the program. The support from parents and villagers to be part of the program has been amazing and they are now taking ownership in developing the game within their own villages. This has led to the establishment of the North’s first Junior Rugby Club, which ensures the development of the game in a more structured and organized manner within the village setting”
According to the Nayavusa Junior Rugby Club Vice President Mr. Sairusi Drauna, “this initiative has changed a lot of mindsets and what was once a game played by males has now become a Sport for All at Tabia Village.
"This programme has created solidarity that has never been witnessed before and the health messages our kids are bringing back from the programme have now made us more conscious about our health.
“The pandemic has completely changed the development structure in Fiji, once where schools were the target now; it’s about the formation of Junior Rugby Clubs in suburbs or village.”
According to Fiji Rugby Union’s National Development Manager, Koli Sewabu, “COVID-19 has created a lot of exciting challenges and has forced us to think outside the norms when it comes to sports versus the impact of the pandemic.
“When schools were closed and there were restrictions by the ministry, we started our ‘Hood of Origin’ program where the focus shifts to the communities, neighborhoods, villages and streets. This created a new sense of belonging for parents and children and through the hard work of our volunteers and Regional Development Officer’s, there are now close to 20 junior rugby clubs formed since March 2020.
“The lifting of restrictions last month has allowed us to continue all the good work that has been laid out for us. All these programmes will culminate in Get Into Rugby festivals around Fiji at the end of December.”
During October, close to four hundred kids took part in the Get Into Rugby programme around Fiji, with over 31% female participation. Fiji’s participation numbers are expected to sharply increase in November and December after an influx of Get Into Rugby activities, led by the Union’s Development Officers and volunteers.
Oceania Rugby’s Participation Pathways Manager, Tihrani Uluinakauvadra said, “Oceania Rugby would like to acknowledge the Fiji Rugby Union Development Unit for their commitment to continue grow the game in Fiji despite all the odds of COVID-19.
“Fiji was a country in the Pacific that was badly affected and it’s through the Union’s smart planning and execution of the plan when sports resumed again that they deserve the recognition of being the Oceania Rugby Get Into Rugby Spotlight Union for the month of October.”
Each month the Oceania Rugby Get Into Rugby Monthly Union Spotlight Union will receive vouchers worth $NZD100.