May there be excitement
18 November, 2017, 12:00 am
Tonight we play our biggest game to date in the Rugby League World Cup in New Zealand.
The weatherman has forecast a cold night for us with the gauge expected to hover about 9 degrees Celsius when we take the field.
It will be cold. Fans will be hoping though that the excitement on the field in Wellington will warm hearts and fire up the Bati.
For whatever it is worth, tonight will be about playing the game of our lives. It will be a match we must win if we are to advance through to the semi-finals.
Sceptics in rugby union crazy New Zealand may insist the clash does not have the hallmarks of a much anticipated international.
They probably will cast aside our advances and credibility as a force to reckon with.
The Kiwis clearly will head in as hot favourites tonight to take out top honours.
The knowledge that they succumbed to Tonga last weekend 22-28 despite having led at the break, will no doubt give fans hope.
The fact that we have never played the Kiwis before in league does add interest to this match.
While we head in undefeated, Tonga’s win though would have overshadowed all our victories in our pool.
We did defeat the US 58-12, Wales 72-6 and Italy 38-10.
They, however, come nowhere near the might of the Kiwis.
Tonga had big names like Cronulla Sharks frontrower Andrew Fifita, rugged Parramatta Eels forward Manu Ma’u and exciting North Queensland Cowboys lockforward Jason Taumalolo upfront and the likes of Eels’ centre Michael Jennings and Sydney Roosters’ winger Daniel Tupou in the backline.
Perhaps there are many lessons in how they defeated a powerful Kiwis side.
Tonight we will face our biggest test.
Fans will, however, be content in the knowledge that we carry a mobile pack that has steppers all around. The pressure will, however, be on our frontrowers Ashton Simms and Eloni Vunakece to settle our early tackle counts and for our enforcers at second row Viliame Kikau and Brayden Wiliame to lay down the law on the edges in defence. Tui Kamikamica will be our go-to man at lockforward to provide continuity in attack. Hooker Apisai Koroisau will be a key element in the greater scheme of things off the rucks.
Without a doubt though, much attention will focus on our halves Henry Raiwalui at halfback and Jarryd Hayne at five eight to make our attacks count inside our centres on both edges, Akuila Uate and Taane Milne.
Marcelo Montoya and Suliasi Vunivalu will be our speedsters on the wings with skipper Kevin Naiqama coming in at fullback.
Our interchange bench has the likes of Newcastle Knights’ young frontrower Jacob Saifiti.
There is excitement in the air. The Kiwis will be keen to make amends. They will be coming out fired up against the Bati.
Their big men such as Brisbane Broncos’ enforcer Adam Blair at lockforward, Simon Mannering at secondrow and Roosters’ frontrower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will be keen to dominate the battle upfront.
Attention will, however, be on their halves of Te Maire Martin and Shaun Johnson to call the shots tonight.
This obviously isn’t a game for the faint-hearted. We have an opportunity to reach out for the stars. History beckons. The question though is whether we are ready. Whatever the result, we say go Fiji, go.