WHILE Tailevu's 2012 rugby hopes and aspirations may have been buried at Prince Charles Park last Saturday, the experience would definitely lay the platform for rebuilding the future of rugby in the province.
They can either stick their heads in the mud with disillusionment and play the blame game or they can take the loss like tough rugby men, forget the negatives and congratulate themselves on the positives and use the experience as a launching pad to a better new year.
It was a successful season anyway compared to the past couple of years.
The level of competition at the Digicel Cup rounds and intensity of the Farebrother-Sullivan trophy challenge will throw new light to the coaching panel on what is required in the next year.
Preparation for the games will take a bit more expenses from the union coffers and players are expected to make more sacrifice.
The off-season training and unseen preparation by the individual players will need a lot of self-discipline especially the club players out in the village teams.
The Army Green involvement in this year's competition is both a boost and a challenge for other Tailevu players vying for the green jumper. The soldiers have raised the standard and level and it is up to other clubs to raise their standards and fight their way up.
In the end, rugby competition will improve and provincial teams will be more competitive and Fiji rugby standard will move to breach the gap with international teams that we do not rely on overseas-based players.
Outplayed and outpaced by a better prepared Nadroga side, the Tailevu team showed a lot of character by coming back to score two tries in the second-half and keep their score respectable even though they lost 26-43.
Many lessons may have been learnt by budding players playing in their first Farebrother-Sullivan trophy challenge and the never say die attitude of halfback Henry Seniloli and blindside flanker Leone Nakarawa stood out like beacons on a gloomy night.
They continued to probe and initiate attacking opportunities until the final whistle and were not intimidated by the scoreline.
The recent Super Rugby saw some sensational come-from-behind wins in the final quarter of the game when the winning team had earlier piled up scores.
Or the English Premier League soccer final win by Manchester City scoring all goals one after another in the final moments of extra time or the USA women soccer semi-final win over Canada in the Olympics, the winner coming in the final seconds of extra time — just moments from the dreaded penalty shootout.
The world of sport has witnessed numerous games over the years won in the closing moments by men who believed in themselves, unmoved by the odds stacked against them and not singing school children's favourite song of teenage pop star Justin Bieber's latest hit 'In your arms I want to die ai, ai, ai'.
It takes mental toughness and this is developed through experience, while a selected few are just naturally born with the gift of no retreat and no surrender. They thrive in tough situations and their characters have been fashioned by life's tough lessons.
Lastly, and more importantly, they possess the physical fitness and stamina and self-motivation which enable them to be clear-minded to execute match-winning moves, not suffering from mental constipation because of the dreary situation.
These are the kind of guys needed for the remaining Farebrother-Sullivan trophy challengers from Northland, this week, Nadi next week, Suva, Naitasiri and then Lautoka.
They are the 90-minute players and their adage is 'when the going gets tough the tough get going'.
While the provincial program for Tailevu ends, the real hard work begins with the continuation of the club competition and Vanua Shield challenges where coaches and selectors continue their search for talents.
Tailevu has a wide range of clubs spread out in the vast province and many hidden talents remain untapped and when discovered, they always become the gem in the jewellery box, Rupeni Caucau is only one example of the many over the years.
Another plus to the Tailevu rugby this season was the effort of their under-20 side which lost to Nadroga in the final 3-13 at Lawaqa Park.
This ensures a promising future for Tailevu rugby and a basis to mould next year's Tailevu team.
Rugby has become a multimillion dollar industry and hundreds of local households of professional rugby players overseas are reaping the financial benefits.
While the prime objective of provincial unions is to win major local championships like the Digicel Cup and Farebrother-Sullivan trophy for pride and glory, the rugby administrator's responsibility has now broadened to include the social welfare aspects of thousands of players registered within the union.
Because in their hands is a vehicle to promote the livelihood of thousands of villagers and fans who may be underprivileged out there yet but possess the natural talents the whole worlds is waiting to see.
So the greater and more lasting and honorable objective would be to develop players to become marketable locally and overseas through the wins and losses.
Failing in the first goal of winning trophies is not as great a predicament as failing in the second objective.
Trophies and championships are just temporary, short-term issues and can be regained one year later.
Fulfilling the second objective promotes goodwill and enhances lifelong advantages and all rugby officials and administrators will have to be answerable to man and God in this life and thereafter.
I've been reliably informed that there's a priceless trophy at stake.
Neither rust nor moth can ever touch it.