IT'S good to be back at work after a timely break. On Sunday, I could feel anger and frustration emanating from the home faithfuls at Thomson Park in Navua.
It was Reds versus the Blues from Lautoka. With Savusavu having walloped Labasa 3-0, the Navuans found themselves at the root of the football league points table.
The bumpy surface did not allow for constructive football and I was surprised the match was allowed to be played. A 2-all draw was a fair result given Navua's second-half fight back, buoyed by substitute Inia Boko.
The Reds, going through a patchy period using mostly home-grown players, did enough to secure a point but not good enough to convince their demanding fans. They're staring at the dreaded promotion/relegation series in the face — the writing is on the wall.
One positive aspect that stood out in this out-of-sorts Navua team is 17-year-old Kolinio Sivoki. This rising talent will go a long way.
He was steady at sweeper and showed a lot of composure in face of the threat from the seasoned Valerio Nawatu.
Sivoki was guided well from the sideline by former Navua and Fiji football stalwart Ramulo Kaibau. Kaibau, now Navua coach, played that role in his time and was often compared to two other former greats, the late Jone Nakosia and Jo Tubuna.
He was agile and the finest last-man-down of the 80s and 90s. Composure under pressure and the ability to set up play from the back were his strengths and he barely had a weakness.
Kaibau, who speaks fluently in Hindi, was asked to join the Fiji team many times but opted out for a reason only known to his best mates. I do not want to reveal why for I do not want to get in trouble with the big man — just kidding! Then national team mentor, the late Billy Singh had to seek Tui Namosi, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua's help to get the powerful defender to join the Fiji team.
Kaibau was a formidable figure and respected by the best strikers. He was humble and never let his footballing prowess get to his head. He reminds me of a good mate from Lautoka, Viliame Satala.
Satala was a part-time worker at Ports Authority when I first met him in 1995. He was playing sevens rugby for Namoli.
He was slim and trim, tall, with barely any muscles but whoever he hit, stayed hit. He had a lovely step, was quick off the mark and had pace to burn.
Satala loved sevens until he met former national rugby coach Brad Johnstone.
"He was the man who convinced me to seriously take up fifteens," says the former hit-man.
Johnstone, Satala said, got him to into the gym to put on some kilos and focused on the 15s code.
It was no looking back from thereon for the Namoli villager.
Stephen Jones, who played over 100 Test matches for Wales from flyhalf and inside centre, named Satala as the best number 13 of the 1999 World Cup where the Fijian outside centre scored four tries.
He was magical, sheer class with ball in hand and, of course, robust and feared in defence.
The likes of Seru Rabeni and Seremaia Bai watched from the reserves bench as New Zealand duo Craig de Goldi and Tony Monaghan were smashed into submission in the 2000 Hong Kong Sevens final at So Ko Po. Monaghan was hit in the first-half but only got to his feet after the final whistle while de Goldi almost lost his nose.
The stylish Christian Cullen almost had his ribs broken when "The Stretcher" snapped into him at the first-ever Wellington Sevens final the same year.
So what made him one of finest tacklers?
"The timing," says Satala, a man of few words.
"You have to get that right and it's important to hit them where it hurts most."
However, one hit that many rugby fans were baffled by was the 'bear hug' on Wallaby number eight Scott Fava, who was stretchered off and later regained consciousness in hospital after several hours.
That was at the 2005 Commonwealth Games and when I met 'Bill' (Satala) I reminded him that "you almost killed the guy" and his reply was simple: "Not my fault, what else I could I do?".
He added with a smile: "He (Fava) ran straight for me and I decided to take him on and that was it".
Fava was no slouch. Bill stood at six feet two inches and weighed 95 kg but Fava was at least an inch taller and almost eight kgs heavier. Still the Australian was left convulsing on the pitch. His wife Sarah ran onto the park in tears, fearing the worst in front of 50,000 fans at the Telstra Dome. Fava finally opened his eyes 11 hours later at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
With or without the metal plates inserted in his left arm, after he suffered a double fracture while playing club rugby in France in 2000, Bill was a fearsome rugger. Forget about the one-armed assassin, he also damaged his right arm later but nothing changed. He was absolutely fantastic going forward and a destroyer in defence.
Bill, married to this wonderful lady Laisa, was overzealous at times but that was his style. He barely uttered a word off the field but did his talking on the ground. Like Kaibau, it's nice to see Bill in a coaching role (with Lautoka rugby). Sivoki and Maroons ruggers are fortunate to have two masters of their respective sports on the sidelines. Make it count guys, learn from the best.