On Friday we travelled to Navunibitu Primary School to link up with the Cardiff team for an afternoon of inter school rugby and netball matches. Game day preparation at Nalaba started immediately as the volunteers rallied together with class 8 to produce a series of chants, pom poms and oversized banners to get the school spirit flowing and the adrenaline pumping.
After a quick break for recess, we were straight out onto the training paddock for team run throughs and some vital pre-game prep. I took Nalaba’s rugby A team through a brief warm up, contact drills, and team runs before practicing a couple of plays ready to unleash once we took to the field. During the training, I couldn’t help but admire the professionalism and passion of the team. For such a young age, the students were incredibly organised, well drilled and communicative, and when this attitude was combined with their athleticism and sheer passion for the game, I knew we were onto a winner.
After our break for lunch, the students and volunteers alike all crammed to the back of the truck before setting off for the games. The atmosphere was electric as we bounced along the track in full song, and pulling into the school we must have made quite a spectacle as the whole truck was belting out school chants. I gathered the team under the posts and we all took a knee for our final team talk.
What followed was a spectacular display full of fiery encounters, Fijian flair and a standard of rugby, that I must confess, I had not expected. As I was on the pitch to help referee the match, I was in prime position to witness the contest first hand and it was a fantastic experience to be in the thick of it with the team. At half time, we were up four tries to one and feeling confident going into the second half. The team once again took the field, boosted by the support from the students on the side lines, whose chanting carried the team through a brutal second half performance. The final whistle the score was eight to one, and we were victorious.
Our afternoon was, however, not over yet, as we headed over to the netball court to give our support to the Nalaba girls who were already locked in a heated match. The team joined the rest of the students on the side lines, and I was again struck by the athleticism and professionalism of the girls. The girls played their hearts out and came from behind to take the game nine to six. Another well-deserved victory for Nalaba!
We then held a huge game of rounders with all the Universities mixing teams but still keeping a competitive edge! Some flying catches, balls getting smashed out of the park and some daring runs between bases caused a great atmosphere between the 40 or so volunteers and leaders!
In the carrier on the way home, I looked around at the sea of smiling faces sandwiched into the back of our truck and could not help but beam with pride and immense satisfaction of what we had achieved as a team. Sports outreach has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my time in Fiji, the students were exemplary and I feel truly honoured to have been able to provide the students with the lasting experience that I’m sure they will remember for days to come.
Mai Nalaba mai!
Exeter University Student