Fiji Sports

Early days of Fijian rugby

Source: AUCKLAND RUGBY NEWS The early days of Fiji rugby in Suva must have been really something as the following account shows: Fijian natives had been quick to grasp the
14 Mar 2013 08:17

This is Fiji rugby team that toured Australia in 1952. There was a procession through Suva followed by a welcome ceremony at the Old Town Hall. Photo: SHIRLEY TUISESE (She is the granddaughter of the legendary Josefa Levula).

Source: AUCKLAND RUGBY NEWS

The early days of Fiji rugby in Suva must have been really something as the following account shows: Fijian natives had been quick to grasp the elementary principles of the game. What more natural than that they should want to “have a go”. And what more natural than that P. J. Sheehan (who became the first chairman of the Fiji Rugby Football Union) should be the man they approached to teach them.
Every evening, it was said, a group of would-be Fijian footballers pleaded with him at his home, to teach them the game.
The first efforts of the Fijians to be transformed into rugby footballers were so comic that there was soon a band of willing New Zealanders also in the act, all under P.J. Sheehan’s (also known as Pay Jay) guidance, but mostly for the sheer fun and excitement.
And then, after a couple of weeks there came the first game between two teams of Islanders.
To confuse the issue and the players even more, it was a wet afternoon. The referee appointed to the game knew absolutely nothing about the rules. He admitted that. But he was a fluent linguist. And Paddy wasn’t. Not in Fiji, at any rate. It was a wild and woolly game. There was no stopping for any minor breaches of the laws. But a yell from the sideline, from Pay Jay, denoted a real breach of the law and Mr Mally Collins’ whistle would peep out loud.
A sideline command was “Order a scrum”. But how the heck did a referee order a scrum, when there wasn’t any such word in the Fijian language? “Tell them to put their heads down,” came the amendment.
After much discussion the players packed down in a scrum of sorts. “Put the ball in now” came the sideline command.
Mally Collins – plus the ball – disappeared into the tunnel of the scrimmage. He placed the ball very carefully in the centre, then crawled out backwards. And not until he had been advised from the sideline did he blow the whistle and tell the two packs to push.
There was not one single scrum infringement through the game!



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