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Best yet to come for Bati

Kameli Rakoko
Friday, November 24, 2017

AMID the celebration and congratulatory messages pouring in to the Fiji Bati camp after the historic quarter-final win over New Zealand an unwavering voice sliced through the din.

"We want that cup," said Fiji Bati captain Kevin Naiqama to our reporter covering the Rugby League World Cup, Elenoa Baselala.

For many Fijians and Bati fans that war of attrition against the Kiwis in Wellington's Westpac Stadium was the highlight of the tournament and enough to get their fix for the rest of the year.

But not yet, says Naiqama. In no uncertain terms what he is really saying is the best is yet to come, so tighten your seat belts and take your cardiac pills.

For those who preach it and are familiar with a certain story in the Bible, in I Samuel 17, that youthful lone voice of confidence seem to tug a cord in the heart and bring a "kaila" of unlimited proportion.

After forty days and forty nights the Israel soldiers heard the roaring challenge of the giant Goliath and a young shepherd appeared, heard the voice and asked who was that "ungodly" man to dare challenge God's own army.

The young David would have been of the same height as Naiqama, maybe younger. They also have one thing in common and that is no matter the enormity of the physical challenge they faced, they had faith that God was going to make the difference.

David was confident of slaying the giant but had his part to complete the task. Pick a stone, aim at the forehead and hit him before Goliath's shield bearer could react.

On paper the Kangaroos are world champions and the individual brilliance of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and try-scoring machine Valentine Holmes are the Goliath sword that would slice through any defensive system.

But divine inspiration is a great teammate, is infectious and motivates the ordinary to achieve extraordinary things.

It was the Kiwis last week, Kangaroos this week the English magpies or Tongan sea eagles next week.

But when the Fijian Bati is on fire you can fit all those into one earthen oven.

The pre-match singing and enthusiasm by our boys were from the heart compared with the haka act and it showed how inspired they were against the Kiwis.

Fiji and Tonga only have to retain that high voltage inspiration they easily draw from and we could see a Pacific Islands final next week.

Inspiration is also infectious as the Bati win would have been witnessed by our Flying Fijians who came close to beating Ireland 23-20 on Sunday morning.

The PNG Kumuls draw their inspiration from the roaring of the crowd on home turf and were like fish on dry land when they faced a technically superior England side in Melbourne.

Tonga were like PNG and had the inspiration of the crowd and they almost lost it to a technically smart Lebanon, coached by Brett Fittler.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, a legendary player, coach and superstar will be one happy and excited man because of the positive growth of the game as a whole but rubbing his hands in expectation as he takes on the challenge of tackling a new-look Fiji.

It will be a battle of wits between him and Bati coach Mick Potter. He should be wary because the level of defence displayed by the Bati on Saturday was top class.

Meninga was a centre and Namatakula's Noa Nadruku was his winger when the Canberra Raiders won the then Winfield Cup in 1994.

This week the video analysts and league experts will be going through the Bati game with a fine comb.

Before the Kiwi game the Bati were the best attacking team and after the victory they were also the best defensive team in the competition. Coach Potter his assistant Wes Naiqama and manager Petero Civoniceva will draw from all their experiences to marry the two against the Kangaroos. To be both the best defensive and also the best attacking side.

Bati duo Naiqama and Jarryd Hayne had declared that their source of inspiration is God himself. For that expect a superstar performance by Hayne we here can guarantee. As for try-scoring machine and Bagasau, Toorak boy Suli Vunivalu let's just hear that there is always a lull before the storm.

Last Saturday was perhaps one of the longest days for Fijian fans as we awaited the quarter-final match. The English nursery rhyme on magpies of, one for sorrow two for joy, came to mind when I saw this lone black dove walking daintily up our driveway.

"Hey go away, where's your partner," I sort of whispered to the bird.

"The Fiji Bati is going to win today and you are not bringing any sorrow to anybody come on go away, look for a partner then come."

The bird flew to a neighbour's rooftop, who are officials of Kinoya rugby league team and I was getting more interested and upset by this lone intruder.

But then the bird quickly took off again as a stone thrown by somebody, who seemed to have had the same concern as I had, whizz past the scared dove.

Since everyone in our area was fully tuned to that quarter-final match the eyes, ears and senses were very sharp and birds are now warned to come in pairs to our neighborhood at such time.

You visit alone and that's what you'll get, a stone. Go Bati go!

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