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Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone But Not Forgotten
July 10
13:14 2016

For the past two seasons on the World Sevens Series one of the first names written in ink has been Isake Katonibau, known as Ice. He is fierce, loyal and a massive contributor to why we have claimed back-to-back titles.

Over this time I have been lucky enough to travel a lot with the Vodafone Fijian Sevens team and observe what a special addition he has been.

 

First up is how hard he is and intense it is when he initially looks you in the eye. This is great when you are a friend and there is no doubt his gaze puts a shiver down the spine of their opponents. He has Army written all over him, organised, a leader and a man you can rely on, as have many men in white jerseys. He flies into the tackle and leaves dents along the way and is a menace for other teams.

Off the field he is as Fijian as they come, he greets the opposition players and people around with warmth, a dre comes flying at you even after a hard training and he always made time to savour the moment in these great countries. He talks a lot and asks the locals many questions about their culture and ways, and he ignites enthusiasm with kids. Often on school visits he took the lead to teach them a bit of Fijian and make time to create laughs for them and offer selfies and signatures from the many requests fans gave.

 

With me he would break his apple in half and share it, help carry my camera bags and always say Bula like I was not a stray around the team.

But most of all he has given the side a precious gift, that is a toughness and steel like attitude that they still carry today. I know a lot of this as Ben (Ryan), Chris (Cracknell) and Naca (Cawanibuka) are instilling belief and togetherness, but tonnes have come from this prime beef from Vanua Levu.

 

He is also humble and this year as we were bundled out early in Wellington, Fiji were doing a walk and farewell wave around the stadium and the national anthems were played for the finalists South Africa and New Zealand, Ice stopped the team, stood and paid respect to them both. This kind of action is the stuff we don’t see on the TV coverage and the moments that build more character, even though a loss is hard to take. He knew when to play hard and when to be human and real.

 

Ice will be missed first up for his hardness, but he also ran some of the most amazing lines in support of the ball, he sliced the defence late and these obscure angles always made ground, personally this was my favourite weapon of this great player.

 

Ice your dream of playing at the Olympics may be over, but I assure you my brother you have boosted this team and if they do well in Rio you certainly helped etch this team’s name in stone.

 

 

(Bruce Southwick-The writer is a professional photographer and head of ZoomFiji. He is also an accredited World Rugby photographer and has been covering the World Sevens Series circuit)

 

 

 

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