THE year was 1981 and some creative junior students of Charlton House, with a love for dance in a school where excelling at new things is encouraged, were inspired to do something different for the upcoming Interhouse. It birthed the idea of the Adi Cakobau School "pom pom girls", fondly known as such because of the hand held poms they shake as an accessory to their dance routine.
Fast forward a year and Veniana Lovodua, a former scholar of the school came back to teach at ACS and was part of a group tasked with organising the then national athletics meet.
Mrs Lovodua, is a name famous at Adi Cakobau School for being a strict disciplinarian when she was school principal in the late 1990s. Few would know that it was her, Ana Wightman and Merewai Manulevu Owens who would then provide the necessary motivation to turn creative young ACS dancers of the early 1980s into cheerleaders.
"Each year a school would be chosen to chosen to host the school and that year 1982 it was ACS. We the teachers wanted something different, something that would make the event hosted by us a memorable one. I remembered those girls from the year before and felt If we gave them a little bit of support, it could be fun."
A 'little bit of support' in the cred of an ACS teacher usually means make it happen. So Mrs Wightman, a teacher expert at teaching folk music organised for students to sing in between events.
"Then I got my drama group and anyone who would like to learn some jingles with actions....Waimanu kui, kui tiko ga. The girls after the initial madua, just took over. One week's prep was all it took, after work before dinner. It took that long because the girls kept changing words and action, it had now become totally theirs." So secret dance practices at the teachers quarters ensued. Mini skirts made of red hibiscus print tetron cotton were sewn lovingly by the pom pom girls themselves under the guidance of the teachers. Others took their maroon sulu-i-ra meant for church, made that into make shift cheer skirts. Shakers were made of crepe paper led by the late Mrs Owens in the Home Economics room. Add the black kung fu shoes a favourite of every 80s fashionable girl — and the first cheerleaders of Fiji were outfitted.
But it was 1983 when complete with much of the same uniform except with white shoes the same kind still worn by the ACS cheer team today, that the 'Pompom' girls debuted on the grandstand of the National Stadium for the Fiji Finals.
Masilina Robanakadavu was part of that pioneer team and her daughter Julia went on to do the same in 2006.
"It was exciting because we were the only Fiji school that came up with the idea. We were thought of as being from the bush but we were quite modern at the time although maybe the wacece kind."
Now — every major school in the country has a cheerleading squad and the Coca-Cola Games organisers add in a competition at the end of the three-day games to keep it exciting.
The ACS cheerleaders continue the 36 year tradition with as much as $10,000 going into the production each year from uniforms, to choreography to new shakers and accessories coming in annually from former ACS cheerleaders in the USA.
Mrs Lovodua, now retired, says it does not surprise her at all.
"I often thought that cheering would become kind of professional, and only the ACS girls would be able to rise to the occasion as they are just so bold and trendy!"