A new storm is rising

A group of high school dropouts are creating history by taking their street-style rugby league skills from the quiet Nadi suburb of Matavolivoli to the top of their age-group in the nation.

They even have an eye on doing the impossible —— plan on developing players with promise to give them a chance at the world stage.

Their story has all the trappings of the start of a rags to riches fairytale. Three rugby league teams formed in a car park in a residential lot are making a difference in the lives of the players and the community they live in.

Instead of spending time loitering around the neighborhood and increasing the chance of falling into crime, the school dropouts have focused on developing their rugby skills. As a result, one of the teams scooped the national under 16 championships from teams made up of school students who have access to better training facilities and equipment.

Team official Epineri Susu said the Redbrick West Coast Storm rugby league club compromises boys from housing areas of Savunawai, Matavolivoli and Malawai Votualevu and other surrounding areas. The team was formed by certain individuals who saw a crowd of boys playing touch rugby every afternoon at an empty residential lot near a car wash in the area.

“There were two supermarkets next to the ground where we saw the boys hanging around after training so in forming a rugby team we could instill discipline, teamwork and character building in these boys,” he said.

“From a humble beginning we formed three teams; U16, U18 reserves grades and we fundraised through curry nights and food selling to pay for our fees to Nadi Rugby League and our lunches every Saturday. The boys played mostly rugby union so switching to rugby league was quite a challenge and there was no proper coach or clinics from the league body.

“There was some rugby league knowledge from the committee members but practically these boys trained themselves from what they saw on TV from overseas teams.”

He said the club didn’t have proper training ground but they made a good use of the one residential blocks available to them.

“The ground they trained in was actually not a full ground fit for one team, we trained three teams which is 60 players; running across each other,” said Susu.

“The boys understood the situation but their love for rugby league and comradeship pushed them on or as the saying goes” beggars are not choosers”.

He said the team was fortunate to have the support of some organisations.

“We’d like to thank our major sponsor Red Brick Laundry and its owners which is one of the prominent laundries in the Western Division for stepping in to help our plight of mostly unemployed youths to recognise their potential to achieve their dreams through hard work and sacrifice.

“Also thanking Food Hall Supermarket and Melanesian Hotel for their support in camp and during the final stages. In their first year they won the National U16 title beating Saru Dragons; 24-10 and their reserve grade reached the elimination stages.”

Apart from their teams achievements, four players joined the Nadi Aviation senior team, four were drafted into the U20 team and Peter Wong has been chosen in the Fiji Residents team.

This is apart from one of the U16 boys who is joining the Melbourne Storm in their development program next year.

“All in all we have reached our objective for this year and that is to expose our boys to top level rugby and rugby teams and we aim to achieve better next year and through our favorite bible verse Phi;4: 13″ we know our dreams run continues”,” Susu added

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