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Kia Ora

Maikeli Seru
Monday, February 05, 2018

Kia Ora and welcome to Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand.

Hamilton means Kirikiriroa (Maori).

It is a city in the North Island of New Zealand and is the most populous city of the Waikato region.

It has a territorial population of 165,400 and is New Zealand's fourth most populous city.

Kirikiriroa means a long strip of cultivated land. The name has a historic traditional meaning dating back to 1864 for Maoris, the indigenous people of this beautiful country.

Hamilton is the agricultural hub of New Zealand

Anyway, The Fiji Times team of photographer Baljeet Singh and I had spent six memorable days at Hamilton City.

It is the home of the Waikato Chiefs in Super Rugby which is expected to visit Fiji again in the next few months for another mouth-watering clash. This time against Waisake Naholo's Highlanders.

Our journey to cover the inaugural Hamilton 7s started differently. Singh departed early flight on Tuesday while I followed suit after few hours later and touched down at Auckland Airport in the early afternoon.

The Nadi International Airport upgrade should be commended because clearance through Customs and immigration was almost instant compared with the long queue of the past. Kuddos to the authorities in charge.

The welcome party at Auckland International Airport by former national footballers Josefa Masilagi (Tavua, Lautoka), Lorima Batirerega (Lautoka, Ba, Fiji) and Etonia Delai (Ba) - a meeting reminiscing the good old days in the Western Division.

Before being ushered to the Abotts Hotel and Conference Centre, my home for the six days, the Masilagi's whipped up a nice chicken palau dinner, which helped erase the homesick - for a while though. Yeah, it was hard leaving my kids behind, especially as the eldest was in line for prefect induction at Jai Narayan College.

The tour of duty started well gaining some credits from the popularity of our 7s heroes. Wherever they visited and trained, loads of Fijian fans were at attendance.

Fijians in Hamilton, just like those in Sydney, Australia, were excited to be called Fijians when the troops were in town.

They packed the training grounds, they set up a Fiji village to host those visiting from across New Zealand, and there were no lack of kava. Those who could not make it to the grounds, sat around the tanoa and watched the action on a big TV screen as the traditional drink flowed abundantly.

And they were not disappointed, the Fiji Airways 7s team delivered by beating Wales, Spain and Australia in the pool, and survived a strong Samoa challenge in the quarters.

Your Fiji Times team was hosted among other media yesterday morning at the popular Hamilton Gardens, a public park which has cultural settings of nations like Japan, France, Rome and a tropical garden. The park is a museum of gardens.

It has a rich cultural backdrop and sits on a 54-hectare park on the banks of the Waikato River.

It is a landmark like the famous 'mighty' Waikato River, which is the longest in New Zealand. It is about 425 kilometres. There are eight bridges that cross this famous river.

Fast forward, the Hamilton 7s started with a sea of colour and costumes on Saturday as fans, especially Fijians, turning up in numbers to watch the two-day tournament.

The annual event will return next year. Waikato is home to past and some current Fiji rugby players such as former national prop Joeli Veitayaki, Bill Cavubati, and All Backs rep, Seta Tamanivalu. The tournament is expected to be bigger and better next year.Until then, poroporoaki (goodbye).

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