Island News

Fijian renaissance

Written By : Brooke Jessa, of the Manly Daily, Sydney. Saturday afternoon on the west coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island, and at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka, young rugby
16 Oct 2010 12:00

Written By : Brooke Jessa, of the Manly Daily, Sydney. Saturday afternoon on the west coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island, and at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka, young rugby fans are climbing the trees that line the fence in search of the best vantage points.
The less venturesome have bought tickets and taken their seats in the grandstand, some having driven for three hours from the far side of the island to support the Tailevu team against Sigatoka’s Outrigger on the Lagoon’s Nadroga Stallions.
Rugby, Fiji’s first or fourth religion – depending on whom you ask – is played at a fast and furious pace in the elite level, Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy challenge on the rock hard, sunbaked ground at Lawaqa.
Beside the grandstand,guests of the Outrigger on the Lagoon Resort gather in a marquee, sip champagne and beer and cheer on the Nadroga team as it takes to the field.
A few minutes before the kick-off there’s a flurry of activity in the grandstand.
The country’s number one rugby fan, Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has decided to drop in unannounced and watch the game.
When the full-time whistle sounds, Nadroga emerges the victor 17-7 in a head-to-head contest that at various stages has seen the dusty ground littered with downed players.
Outrigger general manager Peter Hopgood says that one of the secrets of Nadroga’s success is the Sigatoka sand dunes, towering dunes where the first settlers in Fiji, the Lapita people, are believed to have first arrived more than 2600 years ago.
There, Hopgood says, the players train by running up and down the dunes carrying each other on their shoulders.
Anyone who has seen the size of your average Fijian rugby player will appreciate the strength and endurance involved.
Saturday afternoon rugby is an innovation at the resort and has proved so popular with guests that it’s now running two buses to the Saturday games.
This popularity underscores the renaissance which is taking place within Fiji tourism with visitor numbers, particularly from Australia, up strongly.
This surge in popularity is being driven in part by the strength of the Australian dollar which has made Fijian getaways an attractive financial proposition and the realisation that as a destination, it offers a convenient South Pacific experience in a stable and secure environment.
Three to four hours flying time from Australia, it is culturally light-years distant, a gulf bridged by the Bula! tradition of friendliness and hospitality.
The Inaugural Coral Coast Sevens tournament, also being staged at Lawaqa, is scheduled for November 19-20, coinciding with Outrigger’s 10th birthday celebrations.
During November, Outrigger on the Lagoon is celebrating its 10th birthday with 10 nights’ accommodation for two adults and two children for the price of six.
The Outrigger Anniversary Accommodation Package means that a family of four could enjoy a 10-night holiday, at Fiji’s premier beachside resort from $A1630. What’s more, children under 13 can play and eat for free.
The anniversary package includes accommodation in a Superior Resort View Room and all taxes and airport transfers in Fiji. Upgrade to a Deluxe Ocean View Room featuring the Talai Butler service is available from $A199 per adult.
As part of these celebrations, guests will be able to enjoy further savings by taking advantage of discounts and specials such as $F10 cocktails, pizzas and desserts.

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