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Deans Trophy and its roots in the West

Lorima Voravora Patron/Adviser West Zone 1 And West Zone 2 Secondary Schools Rugby Union.
Saturday, August 09, 2014

The earliest recorded friendly game for secondary schools rugby competitions in the West was played 37 years ago between Ba Provincial Secondary School and Natabua High School in 1977.

Ba Provincial decisively won that game. The game came about due to the interest in rugby of the two PEMAC teachers, the late Master Sanirusi Cavasiga of Wainibuka and his relative, Master Maika Namudu of Wainibuka, Tailevu as well.

Until that time, rugby in the West was mainly played at primary school level, where the weights of players determined their grades being Midget, Bantam, Junior, Intermediate and Seniors. Most of these students were i-Taukei and were in i-Taukei schools such as the local district schools.

So, In the 60s, 70s and 80s when they passed their Fiji Eighth Year Examinations, most of those who passed enrolled at boarding schools such as QVS, RKS, Lelean, St Johns Cawaci, Niusawa Methodist, Marist Brothers, Delana Methodist, Bucalevu, Holy Cross and Navuso Methodist.

Those that went to the Southern and Eastern Zones were the pioneer western students, who were so fortunate to have been taught how to play rugby and also participated in the Deans rugby competitions in secondary schools.

The others who stayed back and attended Western schools hardly played rugby at secondary school level mainly because there were very few schools that had i-Taukei students with the exception of Ba Provincial High School and Ratu Navula Secondary School.

The other i-Taukei students who attended the other schools which were mainly dominated by Fijians of Indian descent played soccer and hockey as their main sport.

They actually rose to become brilliant soccer and hockey players.

Some may argue that the main reason why soccer and hockey were strong in those days at secondary school level and at national level was because of the absence of rugby in majority of the schools which enabled quality students to play the sport brilliantly.

The size of soccer and hockey players were huge and the intensity of competition was at some point fierce.

Today, since most of the schools take rugby training and competitions, these strong, bulky and fierce players have opted to play rugby instead.

From the 70s and throughout the 80s the opening of new junior secondary schools and new i-Taukei dominated secondary schools saw a rise in the level of rugby competitions.

This trend continued in the 90s when i-Taukei teachers began to be posted into mainly Indian dominated schools.

Prior to this it was common not to see a single i-Taukei teacher in an Indian dominated secondary school.

When the Ministry of Education began posting i-Taukei teachers who had graduated from the University of the South Pacific to teach academic subjects.

Those that were transferred from the Central Division to Western schools, the i- Taukei teachers brought with them the beginnings of rugby competition in Western schools.

In the 80s the Deans competition for the first time saw the beginnings of a major corporate sponsorship with a prominent fuel company, Shell Co Ltd.

This marked the beginning of a new corporate era in Deans rugby competition and the West.

Through this sponsorship, the Shell Deans competitions introduced new ID cards.

For the first time, Master Vuli Waqa, Master Isimeli Radrodro, Master Sekaia Ratukonadi, master Nasoni Tuitoga, all of Ratu Sukuna Memorial School and few others at the FTACU braved late into the night to get rugby all the ID cards done.

That formalisation of the rugby competition transformed in the way the Western schools viewed the Deans rugby competition.

They had to abide by the changes and to formalise all their teams accordingly by getting the right players in their right age group.

I have to admit that it was a difficult transition for the Western school because they simply did not have the material in some schools to play in the under-19 Deans rugby competitions.

However, at times they had to field in their under-16, 17, 18 and even cheated by fielding over-aged players to match the sizes of other school's players.

Such was their passion to participate in the Deans rugby competition that they sacrificed ethics.

It was not acceptable but some had little to no option.

In the early 90s, the Western schools had a group of secondary school teachers who were also referees.

They were mainly based in Lautoka and Nadi.

Their passion for the sport at the time was intense that they refereed club games and even provincial games without being paid.

Rugby union was still an amateur sport back then.

They were the key pioneers that kick-started rugby development in secondary schools in the West.

Master Jone Naikatini, a former Nadroga and Fiji representative, was instrumental in the early organisation with the late Sanirusi Cavasiga, the late Mesake Ahtack and master Ravula.

All were teachers in the early years of organising rugby competitions in the Western Division.

A few others assisted them in what used to be known as the "Western Rally".

This was the beginning of secondary schools competition among western schools.

The western executives fought hard in the Fiji Secondary School Rugby Union meetings in Suva for the Western schools to be considered in the Deans rugby competitions.

Their dreams came true in 1992.

For the first time in the history of the western secondary schools rugby, the FSSRU gave approval for the Deans U19 to be competed with school in the West.

For such approval gave excitement in the Western schools as support came from all the rugby communities.

Rugby competitions was now possible for secondary schools just like the primary competitions which had been in existence for a longer time.

The five secondary schools that started the under-19 Deans competitions in the West in 1992 were Ratu Navula Secondary School, Nadi College, Natabua High School, Ba Provincial High School and Pandit Vishnu Deo Memorial High School.

The first two schools were from Nadi and the other three from Lautoka.

The interest and passion generated in the opening game of the under-19 Deans rugby match between the Iliesa Tanivula-captained Natabua High School side against the Pt. Vishnu Deo XV

The game ended with a massive free for all brawl at Churchill Park, Lautoka which the organisers were unable to contain as spectators joined in the fray.

Off duty police officers made widespread arrests in the afternoon and the Lautoka Police Station cells were filled to the brim.

The Deans competition you could say "started with a bang" in the "Wild West".

From then onwards the Deans rugby competition became part of the Western schools sports calendar.

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