The journey of the Farebrother
22 July, 2017, 12:00 am
FIJI’S coveted rugby silverware, the Farebrother Trophy, starts its 2017 challenge series today.
Holders Nadroga puts the title against Naitasiri, also a former champion, at Lawaqa Park this afternoon.
The series supersedes all local rugby tournaments.
It is the most talked about rugby title. Winning it draws endless discussions among Fijians, especially around kava sessions.
The competition is like New Zealand’s Ranfurly Shield. Everyone wants to be part of it, especially as champions.
For the past four years BLK Nadroga had held the trophy at Talenavuruvuru — Nadroga-Navosa’s provincial house.
The trophy has changed names over the years because of sponsorships and naming rights.
That’s how rugby evolves now. It plays to modernisation and professionalism with the demand of corporate financial help to keep the ball rolling.
Nadroga rugby union president Tikoibau Matawalu said it would be hard to wrest the trophy from the Stallions.
“It is part of our lives,” he said.
“The Farebrother Trophy’s value exceeds other rugby trophies that we have won.
No other union knows how Nadroga feels when another union takes the trophy away. We will be restless until we win it back. We can lose another title, but not the Farebrother Trophy. And in every challenge, we will give our lives to win because the trophy is part of our lives.”
They meet Naitasiri today at 3pm at home and the challenge is led by one of the past warriors, former national loose forward Koli Sewabu.
“We are going there with one intention and that is to win,” Sewabu said.
Time will tell as the 2017 HFC Bank Farebrother Challenge, its new name, starts at 3pm today..
History of the Farebrother Trophy
A report in the FRU website states that the first official Inter-District trophy in Fiji rugby was presented to the Fiji Rugby Union in 1941 by Messrs JJ Sullivan and AS Farebrother.
Originally known as the Sullivan-Farebrother Trophy, media reports from 1950 transposed the name to Farebrother-Sullivan, possibly because Farebrother was still a prominent face in Fiji rugby, while Sullivan had died in the early 1940s.
The unions at the time were Suva, Rewa, Vatukoula, Northern Districts (later split to form the Lautoka and Northern unions) and Lomaiviti, but during the war years only three or four unions competed regularly. Often, the tournament would be played on a holiday weekend with the semi-finals on Saturday and the final on the Monday.
In 1951, with the early rounds divided into Southern and Northern Zones, a young Josefa Levula scored four tries in the final as the Northern Districts triumphed 12-5 to break Suva’s 10-year stranglehold on the trophy.
A record crowd of more than 3000 turned up at the Buckhurst Park for the match.
Levula made his Fiji debut later that year on the tour to New Zealand.
This zonal format was followed for two more years before it became a challenge trophy along the same line as New Zealand Ranfurly Shield.
Nadroga added their name to the trophy in 1957 with a narrow 8-6 win over Suva.
But Nadro lost the next match in 1958 to the newly formed Nadi union, who were taking to the field for the first time after breaking away from Lautoka.
Nadi, incidentally, played 10 representative matches in their first two seasons, an unheard of thing in those days, and, by organising the now defunct Western Union competition, laid the foundation of the present representative program.
In 1964, Lautoka became the fifth union to win the Farebrother with a surprise 6-3 triumph over Nadi. But the Maroons handed it back to Nadroga in the following match.
Nadroga dominated the competition throughout the 1970s, capturing the trophy from Nadi in August 1971 and staving off all challenges until September 1979.
Only Nadro and Nadi enjoyed the honour of holders from 1980 through to 1988, before Suva began their three-year grip on the trophy after beating Nadi 15-4 at Prince Charles Park for their first win in the competition for 20 years.
The newly formed Naitasiri union won the trophy at the first time of asking in July 1998 when they beat Nadroga 25-18 at Lawaqa Park.
Colonial took over the sponsorship at the end of 2001, a move that brought the old trophy back after nearly a decade of gathering dust under the Nadi treasure bed.
A tobacco company had earlier forced their own replacement cup upon a penniless FRU in 1993, but Colonial’s sponsorship allowed the original trophy to be restored.
In June 2002, Ovalau produced one of the biggest shocks of all-time to become just the seventh holder in the trophy’s 61-year history with a 17-13 win over Lautoka just one year after being promoted to life as a major union.
Namosi, who themselves had only risen to the top flight in 1998, followed suit by defeating Ovalau in Levuka to take the Farebrother to Navua.
And in 2003, Tailevu became the ninth team to get their hands on the fabled trophy.