Narikoso village – Where the sands and sea honed rugby stars

This is where it all starts....There is no playing ground at Narikoso, so for children, especially the young boys, the beach is turned into a rugby field when it is low tide or when the tide slowly come in. Picture: SIKELI QOUNADOVU

AS the sun slowly set towards mainland Kadavu, sounds of laughter could be heard from the seaward side with screams pasi taka na polo (pass the ball), tackle taka (tackle him).

It was a group of young boys playing rugby out on the beach at Narikoso Village. As I sat and smiled while watching them enjoy their time, a lingering thought rushed through my mind as to who among these young chaps could be the next big thing to be produced from this village.

There is no playing ground at Narikoso, so for children, especially the young boys, the beach is turned into a rugby field when it is low tide or when the tide slowly comes in.

Home to 113 villagers, Narikoso Village like many other villages around the country is rich in history and will only be known once one manages to strike a chord with the locals.

Narikoso holds one of the records in Kadavu having produced six national and international rugby reps, not bad for a small village with no playing ground and threatened by rise in sea-level with already seven houses earmarked for relocation.

“This is something we are proud of and it is really quite a remarkable achievement,” said retired teacher Mikaele Liga, whose two nephews Paulo and Mika were also part of the Fiji schools team.

Brothers, the late George Sailosi and Simione Rarasea during their prime were devastating in the back line.

While George usually played on the wing, Simi often played at centre, and he donned the number 13 jumper in his debut match for the Flying Fijians against the Wallabies in Brisbane on June 10, 1961.

Eight years later, George who had been an established wing for St John Marist and Suva, ran out on to the field in the match against Wales for his debut on June 25, 1969. With Samu Naqelevuki they formed a deadly combination for Suva and on to national level.

The late Samu Naqelevuki, who was labelled as one of the country’s most stylish and ruthless fullbacks, passed away in November 2002, just a few days after his son Sireli Naqelevuki was named to be part of the national sevens team.

Speedy wingers Ilisoni Rarasea and Vili Lilidamu emulated their father George out for Marist and then the national colours.

The latest product Joe Lilidamu, who is the son of Vili, is now a national Japanese sevens player.

“All these players apart from Sireli and Joe were raised in the village, it was at this beach in Narikoso that they honed their skills on their way to rugby stardom,” added Kelepi Saukitoga a Narikoso villager.

As for the young boys playing on the beach of the afternoon of Tuesday August 21, Fiji do not be surprised as another Flying Fijian is produced from Narikoso.

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