Ever since we began projects in the Lomaiviti Province in 2009 Think Pacific, the Lomaiviti Provincial Council and the Integrated Community Development Task Force as our partners in Fiji had a dream that, through our volunteer teams and the projects undertaken, the islands of the province would become much closer and share special moments together. Well during these July 2011 expeditions, the first step to realising this dream was reached, as our Moturiki team visited our Batiki team and island for a day of sports, feasts and of course all night parties!
The journey to Batiki alone was quite the adventure for the Moturiki team, with postponements on Wednesday due to the strong winds, and when finally we were set to go on Thursday lunch time, three outboards set off with half of the team, whilst the others remained in Levuka ready to board to the Ministry of Health boat, nicknamed by the boys “The Destroyer”. However an uplift in winds meant we were delayed a further day, but by the Friday morning “the destroyer” was on its way, and as the boat pulled into the Batiki bay, drenched in sunshine, the boys were quickly jumping off the sides and swimming to shore to be greeted by the two teams and children from Batiki District School, chanting and cheering for their islands. To see two teams stood side by side on the Batiki beach was a huge moment, as the Moturiki boys kept cheering, “We’r all on Batiki..na na na na hey”!
The Moturiki team went immediately to Mua, the chiefly village of Batiki, to present their sevusevu, before taking the short walk to Yavu to present their sevusevu there as it was the village where both teams were staying and being looked after.
With it being such a moment for Think Pacific we had then organised the first ever “Think Pacific Lomaiviti Cup” matches between Moturiki and Batiki in netball and rugby. Due to limited boats on the day of travel we were unable to bring the Fijain members of the rugby and netball teams as planned, with room only for the rugby captain and future Think Pacific leader Raululu and mata ni vanua from Naicabecabe Tomasi to join the Moturiki TP team. However, the rugby guys and netball girls were determined to represent their island on Batiki, and so first up was the netball.
The Batiki girls were quickly into their stride on the court, scoring some early goals through Mistress Luisa, and with some great defensive work by Abi as goal keeper. Every goal was met with huge cheers from the Batiki District School children who had lined the side of the pitch to support their island, whilst the Moturiki boys were chanting and cheering for the Moturiki girls. At the end of the first third it was 8-2 to Batiki, and the second third saw the introduction of their Fijian contingent, who again proved too strong for the Moturiki TP girls, sweeping to a 15-3 lead with one third to play. The final third saw some more great netball being played, with the Batiki team scoring some lovely goals and the Moturiki girls fighting until the final second, with the match finaly ending 18-5, and Batiki were celebrating as they claimed the Think Pacific Lomaiviti Netball title!
The Batiki and Moturiki rugby teams then took to the field to warm up, and it was clear that it was to be one of the biggest games any of the guys, both TP and Fijian, had ever been a part off. The team huddles were filled with nerves, passion and excitement, and after running out the teams stood together to sing the English and Fijian anthems, before shaking hands and getting set for kick off. With all the kids, the tp teams and the communities of Batiki watching the atmosphere was superb, and as the whistle blew and the ball went into the air it was always going to be a cracker. From the first hit by Rex on Henry you could also see very quickly it was going to be a physical one! It was also great to see such strong TP representation, as within the 10s team for Moturiki Sam, Charlie, Ryan, Reiss, Matt, George and Jethro all started, with Will running at 10, and for Batiki Ewan, Sponge and Henry started, with leader Ray running at 10.
Moturiki came out fast, with leader Will making two slicing breaks and early pressure resulted in a penalty and a 3-0 lead. The rugby being played was hard and fast, and both teams were defending for their islands. Batiki continued to give penalties away, however Moturiki were unable to capitalise, and with just moments to go in the half Batiki produced a piece of truly brilliant rugby. Winning a penalty on their own line for a ruck infringement Sponge looked up and noticed space out wide, taking a quick tap and sifting it on to Eto who drew the last man on the 5m line and passed out wide to Knox. Knox was away down the left touch line, before drawing the scrambling defender and off loading back inside to Eto on the half way line. From there it was a foot race, and Eto scampered home under the posts to give Batiki a 7-3 half time lead, with the crowd exploding in excitement!
As the second half got underway Batiki looked to make some changes, with Jack joining the Tp members and Fijians rotating on, and with Moturiki only having one sub in leader Ronnie you could see they were going to have to really dig in against the fresh legs. The intensity of the rugby continued, with some massive hits from both teams and fantastic breaks from Rex and Te, with only a superb last ditch tackle from Reiss preventing a certain score for the Batiki team. Both teams continued to push, and after some strong pressure and big carries from Charlie and Lulu Moturiki found themselves with a ruck 5 m out. Matt looked up and spotted Jethro standing in space out wide, spinning the ball out for Jethro to dive in at the corner for a very well deserved try for the Moturiki boys, making it 8-7. Then up stepped Ryan for the conversion from the right touch line, and with an unbelievable strike he melted it between the posts to make the score 10-7 with 11 minutes to play. Batiki then lost a man to the sin bin and it was their turn to dig in, but with the arrival or further fresh legs through the big guy (leader tim) and the remaining Fijian subs they looked to find the score to win the game against the Moturiki team now relying on sheer will and heart for the final few minutes. With Ben replacing the man sinbinned with 2 mins to go huge space appeared in the middle ten metres out, however the ball did not wuite go to hand. Batiki were however camped in the Moturiki 22, spinning the ball out once again into space but, once again, the final pass did not quite stick. It therefore fell for a Moturiki scrum and the last play of the game, and Matt was all too happy to pick the ball and kick it into the sea, claiming a truly memorable 10-7 win for the Moturiki team.
The emotions after the game from both teams showed just what a special match it had been for so many reasons, and with tears and embraces amongst each squad they then came together to sing I know the lord, a moment that shall remain with both teams, and those watching, forever. A word of prayer was then said, as with life in Fiji it is faith in God, and faith in eachother, that allows people to live in such peace and happiness together, and that faith in eachother was never more appropriate than during that match!
The teams then jumped into the sea for a swim and splash, before making their way to Yavu to shower and change into sulus, shirts and jaba dresses ready for the feast in the hall and the grog party to follow. The food prepared by Yavu was, as ever, phenomenal, and as the grog was mixed the community hall was absolutely full of tp teams and the communities of Batiki who had come together to celebrate a special day. After a few bowls and some hop hop the presentations were made, with the first ever “Think Pacific Lomaiviti Netball Trophy” being awarded to the team captain Abi by Ronnie, and the rugby trophy presented to Lulu by Tim. The members of the Moturiki team from Westcliff High School for Boys (George, Charlie, Matt, Jethro, Reiss, Ryan and Sam) then made a presentation of their own, as they presented their rugby club crest to the talatala of Batiki and the island of Batiki as a whole. It was an incredible gesture and one that the people of Batiki felt very privileged to receive. It was then of course party time, and no one throws a party quite like Yavu village, with the grog and music playing until morning!
Reflecting on the day will forever bring a smile to so many faces. As we said to the teams in the build up it was about so very much more than a game of rugby and netball. It was about two Think Pacific teams coming together, about islands of the Lomaiviti reaching out to eachother and uniting, and about celebrating the beautiful people of the Lomaiviti who Think Pacific is so very blessed to live and work alongside. It was also the start of something we hope will make the Lomaiviti Province the centre piece for youth development in Fiji, with inter school competitions in singing, arts, debating and sports planned, as well as inter island festivals and celebrations to include Nairai, Gau, Koro and other islands of the Province. So the July 2011 teams and the people of Moturiki and Batiki, a huge Vinaka vaka levu, one of our dreams has begun!