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The class of '84

Manoj Kumar
Saturday, January 12, 2013

WE had just won the 1984 Hong Kong Sevens. The Kiwis were smashed 26-0 at So Kon Po in one of our finest triumphs over our arch-rivals in the abbreviated code.

The focus was now on the 15-man game. We were touring Australia and one of the toughest games on tour was against Queensland.

The Aussie state side was skippered by former Wallaby skipper Andrew Slack. They also had the likes of flyer Brendan Moon, regarded as one of the finest Wallaby wingers of his time, fearsome flanker Jeff Miller, who was part of Australia's 1991 World Cup winning squad, and former Wallaby lock and vice-captain Bill Campbell.

Confident visitors

The Fijians went into the game brimming with confidence despite the opposition naming a formidable side. Coached by the late Inoke Tabualevu, the visitors were all out to conquer in Brisbane.

Team manager Ratu Tua'akitau Cokanauto in previewing the game did state that they (Fiji) were "surely going to win".

He based his prediction on his team's preparation. The side was led by former police commissioner Esala Teleni at number eight. The flankers were Laselase villager Sunia Nadruku (7) and 1980 Hong Kong Sevens hero Sela Gutugutuwai (6). Giant Vilikesa Vatuwaliwali (Nadi) and Fiji's 1987 World Cup skipper Koli Rakoroi were the locks. The front row had Kadavu's Tuimasi Tubananitu and Naitasiri's Rusiate Namoro as props and Peter Kean, elder brother of Suva Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean, at hooker.

Flying backline

At stand-off was Rewa's Acura Niuqila, ex-Marist Paulo Nawalu at halfback with Lautoka's 1979 Farebrother hero Samu Yalayala and Nadi ace Sainivalati Laulau the wingers. Sani Tagivetaua and robust Kaiava Salusalu were the midfield backs and policeman Severo Koroduadua the fullback.

Yalayala, Teleni and Gutugutuwai were the try scorers as we won 19-15 with Koroduadua kicking two conversions and a penalty.

"I reckon this is as good as the team the Fijians sent here for their first tour in 1952," offered Queensland coach Bob Templeton.

"The 1984 Fijians are playing with all the traditional flair and they have greater discipline but it has not comprised their natural skills."

Double celebration

The then governor general of Fiji, the late Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau enjoyed his two weeks in Hong Kong and Brisbane. He watched the team win over New Zealand in the former British colony and later spoke to the fifteens side before they overcame the Aussies.

Having smashed Queensland 48-24 in Suva in 1983, this was a rare back-to-back win for Fiji against a tough state opposition.

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