Best in the Pacific

SINCE its humble beginning seven years ago, the annual Mana Whey Fiji Coral Coast 7s has lifted the standard of 7s competition in Fiji to new heights.

A standard that no other tournament in Fiji has ever achieved in terms of the on-and off the field happenings.

And the icing on the cake is the fact that the South Pacific premier 7s festival has attracted the world’s rugby 7s legends to our shores as guest ambassadors each year.

Local rugby fans only watch these rugby idols on TV, but the Coral Coast 7s organisers made it a commitment to invite these heroes giving the fans the opportunity to meet their stars.

The tournament organisers even created a Walk of Fame at Sigatoka Town to remember the achievements and contribution of these rugby stars to the 7s game.

In the first year of the tournament (2011) Fiji’s very own and the world’s king of 7s Waisale Serevi was joined by Wallabies legend David Campese as guest ambassadors. The best player trophy is also named after these two living legends.

The late All Blacks rugby legend, Jonah Lomu, was the chief guest in 2012 while former England 7s captain Ben Gollings and Fiji’s Melrose Cup winner Viliame “The Stretcher” Satala were guests in 2013.

Former New Zealand 7s captain Karl Te Nana also had his name embedded in the Sigatoka Walk of Fame in 2014 followed by Australian rugby union and league international Lote Tuqiri in 2015.

The stars continue to flock our shores for this event attracting Wallabies icon George Gregan in last year’s tournament. The former Australian captain was honoured together with the historic Fiji 7s team that won gold medals at the Rio Olympics.

And this year the tournament is honoured to have the world 7s series record breaking 7s player DJ Forbes —— having featured in 89 world rugby 7s tournaments and winning six world series 7s titles, Commonwealth games gold medals and Rugby Sevens World Cup title. Having these rugby 7s icons at the tournament each year separated this event from other events in Fiji and in the South Pacific.

Coral Coast 7s founding chairman Jay Whyte said achievement and contribution made by these star players inspired the organisers to invite them as guest ambassadors and to be honoured at the “home of 7s” —— Fiji.

“The inspiration for inviting legends was to enable them to witness the emergence of new stars to the game of 7s,” said Whyte.

“The legends of the game we have been so fortunate to welcome have had amazing rugby careers in both the 7s form and of course 15s.

“By having these international legends be part of the tournament brings interest from not only the Fijian spectators who simply love their rugby and respect the players who they have seen on their screens, but it also provides interest from overseas to drive coverage of what the Coral Coast 7s has to offer in terms of an event and of course as a tourist destination.

“Being able to watch Fijian fans walk up and embrace these guests in the beautifully Fijian way, for many the option of travelling overseas to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is not available and being able to give them a chance to meet and shake hands is very special.

“By having the legends of the game here, watching the proceedings we believe many of the players participating will really lift their performances knowing the likes of Campese, Serevi, the late great Jonah Lomu, Gollings, TeNana, Tuqiri, Gregan, Satala are all watching to see who puts their hands up to claim the i-Wau trophy and of course possible national representation.”

He said the organisers also created plaques for these rugby stars at Sigatoka town called the Walk of Fame mainly to honour these stars for their contribution to the 7s game.

“The main objective of the Walk of Fame was to have something truly unique for Fiji and of course the Rugby Town of Sigatoka,” said Whyte.

“I believe that this was a special way of acknowledging players and to show some appreciation for what they had achieved on the hallowed fields around the world.

“To let these players know that no matter their wins or losses on the field, we the general public appreciated their service to the game we love.”

Whyte said the tournament had been living up to its dreams and aspirations being the best and premier 7s event in the South Pacific.

“We set out in 2010 to deliver a great local event which would prove the viability of the Coral Coast Sevens as an event.

“From that time we believe we have become the Premier 7s event in the South Pacific, providing the highest quality and best player pathway for men, women and now youth.

“As part of the tapestry of 7s events around Fiji, we believe we have provided wonderful chapters of sporting success and we aim to help grow the game into the future, continue to help develop players for national honours and showcase what Fiji is capable of in terms of hosting international teams and events.

“We loved seeing the fairy-tale of First Light Taveuni in 2017, which was a similar sort of fairytale to that of Yamacia in 2013. The ability for club teams to ascend to the mountain top of 7s here in Fiji is a beautiful thing to watch.

‘Seeing how players who perform here are then given opportunities to thrive at the international level is also very special.”

Whyte said this year’s event would continue to win the hearts of the 7s public and thanked the sponsors for the support and the teamwork that continued to make the Coral Coast 7s as the best in the country.

“The Mana Whey Fiji Coral Coast Sevens is now into its 8th year and will once again be a focus for all fans around Fiji and the globe over the four days of sporting action.

“We must thank some key people who have brought the event to life from its very humble beginnings which were: Wayne Robinson, Petero Manufolau, Peter Hopgood, Michael Monks, the FHTA Coral Coast Chapter, Nick Jordan, Tiko Matawalu, Katja Imholz, Alex Hill, Alice Hil, We obviously appreciate the wonderful support from our key sponsors and those who have supported the event in the early days to make the event what it is today.

“We must also acknowledge the amazing support of these key sponsors who in 2018 make the Mana Whey Fiji Coral Coast Sevens the event it is. We acknowledge and thank Chris Zayman from Mana c Whey, Doreen Francis from Crest Chicken, James Pridgeon from Uprising Fiji Beach Resort, Peter Hopgood Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort, Franics Lee Shangri-la’s Fijian Resort & Spa, Ian Jackson CFL, Fiji Times, Karen Lobendahn Fiji TV, Tourism Fiji, Sigatoka River Safari.

“To all the fans in Fiji, come down and check out the 8th annual Mana Whey Fiji Coral Coast Sevens and discover the passion.

“All four days of action are free to the general public, so make the most of it and see which teams can walk away as 2018 champions,” Whyte added.

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