Josh Clark reports on the Maples and Calder National Rugby VIIs Academy Fiji project. Clark and other young Cayman players are training, playing and living with Fijian rugby stars in that Pacific nation.
Everything is really good here and we are now training twice a day for 2 hours at a time. We train at 10 for 2 hours and again at 2 for another 2 hours.
The trainings consist of mostly running drills that link to our basic skills. We then play 7 a side touch for about an hour. It is great to play with the Fijians as you learn from their every move. I am learning a lot from playing with them every day and every session, perhaps most importantly, I am learning to control the game and look for gaps as well as create gaps. I have improved my side step which helped me score the other day when we played one of the top 7-a-side high school teams here in Fiji.
We tied 10-10. It was a very long and hard game as it was very wet and also very, very cold. If not for a few handling mistakes we could have won the game. The Fijian guys that watched were very impressed with our tackling and our over all playing skills which was very pleasing for us.
I have not played in a men’s Red Rock game here yet. I was supposed to play last week on the wing which was a change, but the other team was complaining that we were not registered players so it was an unfair advantage as we could have been professionals!
I was then supposed to play again this weekend. The coach had asked me at training the next day after the game if I was able to play on the weekend as he was very impressed with my game. I was very pleased with that!
Unfortunately the game this week was cancelled because the main pitch is under construction and the national stadium is being used for the under 19 school teams semi finals.
Michael Manderson, Staurt McMillan and me went to watch the semi-finals with one of the guys from the village we are staying at. The under 19 games were very good to watch, we all thought that we would quite easily fit into their games and we would easily be able to play with them, our Fijian friend agreed.
Micheal has come a long way with his rugby, he is now coming onto the ball powerfully and is finding gaps and hitting them at pace and scoring all the time in training, actually beating some of the guys for pace and even putting in a few side steps, awesome.
The main talk with all of us down here is how we think we are going to do in Barbados in the Caribbean Championships in November, so we are all training towards that and we all have that in our heads so that is very good.
The Fijian culture is quite an amazing thing, the people here are very laid back with no worries at all. They all love being with us and they do anything they can to help us, as we do the same for them. I have given away 8 shirts and also a pair of boots and I think more stuff will go as I leave. We actually went to a Fijian party last night, for the manager of Red Rock his daughter turned 21. It was a very interesting party and it was a very good and different experience. The party was almost like an assembly. We all sat in front of a stage and the birthday girl and her parents sat in front of you on the stage. There were MCs who actually talked about the birthday girl and then the father and daughter made separate speeches thanking everyone. It was a very emotional party for all of the Fijians with a lot of tears. After all of the speeches were finished there was a big buffet with all kinds of different local dishes which we were willing to try.
The Fijians love to celebrate and enjoy their time being spent with friends and family. Most every night they all get together and drink kava, which they call grog, which is a non-alcoholic drink which eases the body. It’s actually a ground up root mixed with water. They sit and drink and tell stories and laugh all night, it is a great experience to be with them and listen to their humour and their different ways of speaking English. It’s quite funny because in big groups only the Fijians that are fluent in English or are well spoken will talk to you because if they mess up everyone catches on and then they start making fun of them, it is quite amusing for us. Not sure what they make of our attempts at Fijian!
The standard of rugby here is amazing, these guys are 100 percent rugby and nothing else. Many do not work as seems the custom here with the young and best players, they live in their village, train and help out and are supported by the older members of the village.
The only reason we have this chance is because of the sponsorship of Maples and Calder and the Cayman Rugby Union National Sevens Academy. both have offered us a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience rugby at this level and the culture of a beautiful people as well as this wonderful set of islands collectively known as Fiji.
We all realise that we have changed forever during this trip both with our rugby and our own cultural background. It is truly a wonderful opportunity and experience for us all.