Marist 7s continues to produce rugby stars

THE Fiji Bitter Marist 7s continues its role as being the rugby stable of Fijian 7s thoroughbreds over the years and has grown in stature in the quality of prizes and organisation it provides.

From the first prize of a pig’s carcass and cartons of beer in 1976 to $50,000 total sponsorship this year, it has been a major increase in Fiji’s most favourite 7s tournament.

One of the latest products is Suva Stallions winger Tevita Nabura who now plays left wing alongside Aisake Naholo for Highlanders in the Super Rugby competition. Two years ago the Stallions reached the quarter-finals of the Marist 7s and immediately Nabura, of Nadroga was recruited by Counties Manukau and this season is already playing Super Rugby.

The standard 64 teams it started with in 1976 continues to give chances for teams from every part of the country to participate at a first come first serve basis. There are 12 women teams too and invitational Oldies competition.

Exposure to such a big competition for untapped talents from rural villages has been the first step to motivating them that they can rub shoulders and stand toe to toe with the big boys of the sevens game at the same time attract the attention of selectors and top established clubs.

Urban-based clubs have been recruiting talents from rural clubs and groom them into winners over the years making it easier for national selectors to make their pick.

The forces teams such as Police, Army, Navy, Wardens and Fire also recruit talented rugby players to join them not only to carve out a rugby career but also employment to look after their welfare when rugby is over.

So Marist 7s and such ongoing local tournaments have played a great role in the 7s game, but also in nation building.

Youths who failed to make it in academic studies have succeeded to make a living out of rugby by winning rugby contracts to ply their trade in European professional clubs, New Zealand and Australia.

The market for rugby players is out there and Marist 7s has been one of the consistent producer of talents over the years and definitely will continue to do in years to come with the sponsorship of Paradise Beverages (Fiji) Ltd and other corporate sponsors.

However, the bulk of untapped talent has also disappeared into the workforce as school leavers concentrate on tertiary studies and work and do not have enough time to play rugby.

The early history of Fijian rugby teams included teachers and doctors and because of their higher mental discipline became exceptional players.

Perhaps it is where rugby development should also focus to bring in rugby thinkers to enrich Fijian rugby.

The competition this year will also give 7s selectors the chance to get more players into the national squad as we prepare for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series final two leg, the Commonwealth Games and the Melrose Cup in August.

Tabadamu, Police, Wardens, First Light, Cross of Victory, Ratu Filise, Suva Stallions, Army are the top contenders this year while there are dark horses lurking in the background who have no respect of reputation whatsoever.

The beauty of Marist 7s is that any unknown team with a lot of fitness, aggressive defence and sidestepping talent can surprise the established teams. Yasawa flyers did it once and a member of that team, Kalione Nasoko, was named best 7s player of the 2017 season in the Sportsman of the Year Award recently.

Police have promised their supporters that they would win, but other teams will have their say when the man with the shrilly mouthpiece gives his signal for the battle to begin.

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