30 October, 2016, 12:00 am
AUSTRALIA is not doing enough to develop rugby in Fiji and Pacific Island countries compared with New Zealand, says Australian rugby great Mark Ella.
Compared with his country, the former ace, regarded as Australia’s best rugby player of all time, said the Kiwis were more active and culturally attached to the island nations.
He made the statement in light of the New Zealand All Blacks’ tour to Samoa last year and the Super Rugby match between the Waikato Chiefs and the Canterbury Crusaders in Suva this year.
“I don’t think Australia does enough to develop rugby in the Pacific Islands, I think New-Zealand does a bit more,” Ella said.
He said when he was playing, it was normal for them to come and play against Fiji every second year, and the strength of rugby got stronger and it improved how they played together as a team.
“Australia is just worried about making as much money as they can and not worried about promoting rugby in the Pacific, so New Zealand has got more of the cultural aspect to rugby or to sport in the Pacific nations than we have.”
The Wallabies since the last Rugby World Cup had benefitted from Fijians Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Taqele Naiyaravoro and Sefa Naivalu. Ella himself played alongside one of Fiji’s greats Qele Ratu. Other Fijians who have played for Australia include Acura Niuqila and Ilivasi “Human Skewer” Tabua.
Ella said Australia was all about the money and they could not send a team to Fiji because not much money could be made from a match here compared with having their games in Europe which would be more lucrative.
“It would be great to see an Australian Super Rugby game with New South Wales or the Brumbies or somebody, but they are tied into agreements with their venues because again they need to secure their season and also because there is no flexibility within their schedules.
He said perhaps if the Fiji Rugby Union could make an introduction or spoke to the Australian Rugby Union regarding the opportunity of hosting a Super Rugby game in Fiji.
“But the question is ‘has the Fiji Rugby Union asked that? Because there may have been approaches or maybe not,” he said.
Ella is the second rugby great who has spoken out on the need for tier one nations visiting Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.
Former All Black and former New Zealand 7s captain, Eric Rush also made similar call when he was in Fiji last month.
Ella is holidaying with his family in Fiji and returns home tomorrow.