FORMER Nadi and Fiji international rugby prop Jona Naresia Qoro turned back the clock about 40 years ago and recalled how competitive provincial rugby was between Nadroga and Nadi in the 1970s.
When contacted yesterday at his Narewa home in Nadi by Times Sport, the former burly prop didn't mince his words when recalling almost every game the two neighbouring teams played at Prince Charles Park or Lawaqa Park.
In paying tribute to the late Ratu Isikeli Tasere who passed away last week, Qoro said it was always like a war when the two teams locked horns to play for the Escort Shield or Farebrother Trophy.
"I never played with Tasere in the Fiji team as he was a bit younger than me but we both played against each other in provincial rugby and once during the trial in 1976 to select the Fiji team to tour Australia. He was selected along with Sovau and a few other front rowers but I didn't make it because age was fast catching on me and my body started to complain of injuries sustained on previous international tours,' said the 69-year-old Qoro.
But it was the old rivalry between Nadi and Nadroga that he could vividly remember.
He stated in 1971, he played for Nadi when Nadroga lifted the Farebrother Trophy away from them and Tasere was one of the props.
It was the same year the Narewa man from Nadi made history by being selected into the World XVs rugby team.
The Stallions successfully defended the Farebrother for nine straight years.
"Nadroga had Tasere, Meli Kurisaru, Wajile Tuinagiagia, Rupeni Qaraniqio, Wame Gavidi, Aminiasi Naituyaga, Ilisoni Taoba, Seru Naitau, Ravuama Lajilevu, Lote Tuqiri while Nadi had bigger players in Nasivi Ravouvou, Jo Sovau, Lesavua, Vuniani Varo, Sela Toga, myself and few others.
"In those days, rugby laws were not that strict and you could punch or kick somebody's head, claw his face — as long as you avoided the referee.
"Nadroga had small but gutsy forwards and one of them was Tasere, they could absorb everything we gave them while Sovau was sort of Nadi's main weapon when trouble popped up.
"We knew we were related to almost all Nadroga players, for example the late Naitau was my cousin but when it came to rugby all that was forgotten on the sideline and it was almost like a war zone on the rugby field.
"But as soon as the game came to and end, we made our way to the after match function and whatever drink was offered we shared it joyfully and that was rugby in those days, with maybe three or four players from either side with broken noses or cut eyebrows which was generally regarded as part of rugby, it was fun," said Qoro.
He added it was always sad to hear the passing away of a friend or relative.
"I believe my friend Tasere has served his province and country well and the Almighty has made His call. I would like to offer my condolences to the family and all surviving Nadroga players who I played with in the 1970s."