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Bosco shares the tales of old

June 16
13:11 2012

Pio Bosco Tikoisuva


From the hills and sandy beaches of Cawaci to the concrete jungles of Suva’s urban jungle – banded scholars of two prominent Catholic schools formed one of Suva and Fiji’s most prolific rugby clubs.
But the club that catapulted the club to fame was the Cawaci sector playing under the St John’s College Old Boys banner clad in the familiar light blue hoops and white shorts – famous St John’s school colours.
Legendary Fiji rugby skipper, captain, manager and chief executive Pio Bosco Tikoisuva recalls how the bonding was forged on the island of Ovalau in Cawaci during a 45-minute truck ride from the old capital of Levuka.
“The reason it was so easy to form a common bond was that unlike other boarding and educational institutions around the country, we only had about 100 plus students and we all knew each other,” Bosco said.
“It was survival of the fittest at school – we ate a lot of vegetables but we had our own dairy – milk supply was  plentiful.
“For us boys who came from coastal areas we would go fishing as far as Makogai (an island off Ovalau) to dive for fish and that was where we got our Sunday lunch.
“We would take our primus, kakana dina (root crops or breadfruit) and eat first before we went out diving.”
The school had its own boat and engine.  The other students would go to dig up wild yams and Tivoli in the hilltop jungles surrounding the school.
But rugby was the top sport they played well in Cawaci apart from athletics and hockey.
“When we played inter-house rugby we would have our own version of the ambulance on standby,” Bosco said.
“Those injured would be rushed off in the ambulance to be looked at, that ambulance was actually a wheelbarrow.”
A band of old scholars started up the St John’s rugby club in Suva where they had secured employment after surviving the school of hard knocks in Cawaci.
Led by the late George Reade, the club competed against formidable teams like Lomavata, Castaway, Police and Army who were amongst a few pioneering Suva rugby teams that would slug it out (literally and physically) on the rugby pitch and then band together in their favourite nightspots.
In 1969 the former Marist Brothers High School rugby club called Albions approached Reade and his men seeking to merge as Albions was struggling to keep together a team in the Suva competition.
The deal was sealed in the Crypt at the Sacred Heart Cathedral – a neutral ground for all Catholics from all educational backgrounds.
That is where the St John Marist Club was formed.
St John’s at the time had Jone Raikuna at first five eighth, Sakapo Vodivodi halfback, Lario Raitilava centre, George Sailosi winger and our prop was Setareki Tamanivalu, not forgetting Antonio Racika our hooker. All wore the national colours at that time.
St John Marist’s club house humble beginnings was from the Baledrokadroka’s home close to Albert Park, to the Honson St carpark and finally to the current Marist Rugby Club below Lambert Hall in Suva.
Bosco himself played on the wing after a stint with the Forestry Department in Nukurua where he ran from the forests to his quarters each day to keep fit.
After a stint of three years studying and playing as the first Fijian to play for the celebrated Harlequins Rugby Club in England, Bosco returned to play again for his homeland.
In 1976 during a grog session George Reade turned to Bosco to ask him how the boys could keep occupied playing rugby during the off- seasons.
“I told him let’s play 7s,” Bosco said.
“This was where Marist 7s was born.
“I suggested 7s rugby as I had played in the Middlesex 7s and other invitational meets in the United Kingdom and France.
“I drew up a chart – and we did it first for the club – we ran it at MBHS ground, split the teams into teams of seven and Carlton Brewery sponsored the event with five cartons of beer.”
Former players like Lario Raitilava, Bosco, Jone Raikuna, Lario Raitilava, Romanu Sakaraia, Sakapo Vodivodi, Peter Kean, Atonio Racika, Aliposo Waqailiti, Paulo Nawalu, Robert Howard, Joeli Veitayaki, Sani Tagivetaua, Tomasi Tamanivalu, Peni Rauluni, Baleinadogo, Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua, Dan Lobendahn, Rodney Samuels and Peter Hughes,  are former reps of worthy mention who have done the club proud by representing Suva and Fiji.
Then there is Jale Cagica, Ioane Naiveli, Tevita Manaseitava, Ilisoni Rarasea, the late Paula Tagivetaua, Belasio Vukiwai, Diri Nawalu, Leone Nawalu and Sete Waqavou.
A number of them will return to the Marist Rugby Club today for the St John’s Marist Club reunion and reignite that flame that burned wildly in the Suva rugby competition in the 60’s to the 90’s era.
They will also remember fallen comrades like Setareki Tamanivalu, Des Whiteside, George Sailosi and Ratu Rabici Ganilau all former Fiji reps, and of course George Reade, the Father of the club.
Former Fiji Rugby Union chief executives Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua, Bosco and current incumbent Manasa Baravilala are all former club members, while Rafaele Kasibulu has also acted as chief executive.
The late Peter Hughes and Ioane Naiveli were former  directors of  FRU. Naiveli spent 18-years as director of  FRU from  1991  to  2009.  During those years he was treasurer and this position later changed to director-finance.   Dan Lobendahn was also a national selector.
Punjas, Tappoos and Auqasafe understand the immense contribution the mentioned individuals have made to Fiji rugby and have pitched in to make this reunion a success.
The programme begins at 12.30pm today with a Mass by Father Leronio Vodivodi, the son of the late St John Marist legend, Sakapo Vodivodi (former national halfback).
Former members are asked to return to where it all started and share the tales of old which has made the club a living legend.

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