Navosa has two coaches

Uluiasi Lawavou on attack for Nadroga against Navosa during their clash at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka yesterday Picture BALJEET SINGH

NAVOSA Rugby Union is facing a split in players after the appointment of new coach Kini Vuira who has been appointed to replace former mentor Peniasi Damu early this year. For the past weeks, the two coaches have their own sets of teams training at different venues for the Fiji Rugby Union-sanctioned Skipper Cup competition.

Damu’s team is training daily at Naviti ground while Vuira’s team is camping at Lawaqa. Damu coached Navosa for the past three years and guided the side to secure a spot in the major union this season. He won 11 games and lost one in last year’s competition.

At this year’s annual general meeting, the union appointed Vuira to replace Damu as the head coach. Damu was disappointed with the decision made by the union board.

He said a core group of Navosa players were unhappy with the new change and wanted to form their own team. “I am still in the dark over my removal,” said Damu.

“Most of the players I coached last year have approached me to train them every afternoon while few, together with some new boys, are camping at Lawaqa under the guidance of Master Kini (Vuira). “There are two Navosa teams at the moment.”

Union president Tevita Kolikoli said the union recognised Vuira’s team. He said Damu was not happy with the new appointment and instead formed another team.

“The requirement for the union is for the head coach to be a Level Two certified coach and Damu did not meet the criteria,” said Kolikoli.

“This is the main reason for the change, but we have appointed him in the panel of coaches. “I think he wanted to be the head coach and is the reason he formed his own team. The question to ask is where will his team play since we only recognise Vuira’s team. Damu said he guided Navosa team to victories without a level two coaching certificate. “I don’t have a Level Two Certificate, but I have coached Navosa for the past three years to reach this far,” Damu said.

“They said nothing after Navosa secured a spot in this year’s major union without a Level Two coach and why do they want to make it a big issue now? “The least I want to see is for the team to be demoted after the sacrifices we once went through in the past years to secure a spot in the main competition. “I wish the team and the new management the very best this season.”

Damu claimed one of the main reasons of his removal was because of the way he approached the board regarding the players’ welfare.

“I always confronted them during meetings on the funds because I wanted the best for the players,” he said.

“We received many donations last year including the $10,000 given by Semi Kunatani. In fact no clear record was given to the players on where the money was used.”

Kolikoli said the union had a clear and clean record of all funds used.

“Our annual accounts have been audited and we can produce it if required. All funds received by the team were used for the team.

New coach Vuira said the issue had affected the players’ performances.

He said only five players turned up in camp yesterday at Lawaqa Park while most of the players were still trained by Damu.

“I have no issue with Damu as head coach and once he comes in, I am willing to stand aside,” said Vuira. Kolikoli said Damu would return as head coach once he completed the required selection criteria.

“The door is always open for discussion and we want him to return as head coach. “But again there is a selection criteria in place and Vuira met that requirement.

Kolikoli said talks were in progress to approach the chiefs and the vanua to solve the impasse.

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