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The impact of the Nawaka 7s transforms lives

Maciu Malo
Friday, February 23, 2018

THE annual Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s is more than just the oval ball game and has transformed the lives of many ordinary villagers over the past 32 years.

And the endless partnership between the Nawaka Rugby and its main sponsor Paradise Beverages has forged a lifelong commitment between a traditional entity and the commercial brand.

The tournament records another milestone this year with a total sponsorship of $36,000 attracting a massive 84 teams to compete in three separate competitions (men, under-19 and oldies) to be hosted in two days at Nadi's Prince Charles Park.

Nawaka Rugby president Jioji Kinisi said the tournament not only groomed rugby players, it also improved the standard of living in the community through the income generated from the event.

He said they were grateful to have formed a winning combination with Paradise Beverages.

"We are really excited what this year will bring for us we got some unprecedented signs ahead of the tournament," said Kinisi.

"It is quiet humbling to have two separate entities joined together we don't speak the same language as they are a commercial entity and for us it's traditional.

"Somehow we have kept this relationship this long and its quite exciting and we are truly grateful for Paradise Beverages likewise for other sponsors.

"Young men from our village have made a living from rugby and this is through their sponsorship. There is a school nearby that we continue to support and some other developments are still in the pipeline.

"It is more than just the oval ball for us it reaches and touches the very fabric of our society and for that we are grateful."

Paradise Beverages head of sales and trade relation Joe Rodan said they were proud to be associated with Nawaka rugby.

He best compared their relationship with that of a marriage.

"Our total sponsorship this year is $36,000 , we are giving $30,000 in cash and $6000 in kind so for us we are happy to give this because when you look around at the village there is hall and that is one of the products of the Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s . The money they have raised have been poured back in the development of the community.

"If you walk around Nawaka Village you will notice a lot of the houses there especially good houses they belong to rugby players so for us it is a co-operate relationship.

"We do these of things that poured money back into community. Fiji Bitter and Fiji Gold are very popular beer and by sponsoring the tournament especially the grassroots level — it helps develop sports and it helps develop the country.

"If you look at the Fiji team most of these players come from these sorts of tournaments and for the Nawaka 7s — one of its policies is putting the grassroots first."

He said their partnership had also given birth to many talented players.

"Because from the grassroots we can identify talented players that could not make it in other areas such as the classrooms — so they use their God-gifted talents by playing rugby and by sponsoring these sorts of tournament we are able to identify and the FRU also enabled to identify them and through their talent they are able to move on and build a career for them.

"If you look at most of our rugby players playing overseas a lot of them are from these sorts of tournaments and they are doing very well and we are pleased to sponsor this tournament because it helps identify opportunity for those that thinks they have lost out.

"And if you look out at most of rugby players and sporting people they haven't done very well in the classroom but their God gifted talents is to play sport and they have capitalised on that and that is the reason we are sponsoring."

He said they had faith in the Nawaka rugby club and would continue to assist the development of the tournament.

"Thirty two years, that is a very long time — it is like a marriage because marriage is about trust.

"These guys they have gained our trust and have shown us that the money they invested in here has gone back in the development of the community and have progressed on and for us that is a big achievement.

"They valued our sponsorship and we even treated like royal guests during the launching.

"This is our contribution towards the community," he added.

Over the years the tournament has produced some of the country's best rugby players. These include the sons of Nawaka who were unearthed from this very tournament to become household names in Fiji rugby. The list includes Manasa Qoro, Esala Labalaba, Savenaca Aria, Lalai Driu, Sailosi Nawavu, Api Naevo and Semisi Naevo to name a few.

Taveuni is the defending champion while top teams such as Bayleys Coral Coast 7s champion Police, Raka 7s champion Ratu Filise, Tavua 7s champion Tokatoka Westfield Dragons, Nasinu 7s champion Wardens, Natakala 7s champion Tabadamu and former Nawaka 7s champion Army are also tipped to take out the main title.

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