Opinion

The Englishman And His Superb 7s Team

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say in the FBC TV programme, 4 The Record last night.   I   join the thousands of fans in congratulating coach
30 May 2016 08:51
The Englishman And His Superb 7s Team
Rugby coach Ben Ryan has become something of a celebrity in his adopted country Fiji, where he is mobbed wherever he goes.

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say in the FBC TV programme, 4 The Record last night.

 

I   join the thousands of fans in congratulating coach Ben Ryan and his Vodafone Fijian 7s for their popular back to back win in the World Sevens series.

We are one step away from achieving our Olympic dream, our first gold.

Coach Ryan and his men who have survived his strict regime for three years are now poised for the ultimate challenge. They smell a medal in Rio and they are going for the gold.

The team’s first back to back win in the World 7s Series is the culmination of an incredible journey for Ryan whose commitment for Fiji showed from Day One. For four months he worked without pay. This did not discourage him.

In 2014, they won the Dubai 7s for the first time since 1999.  The final against New Zealand was almost near perfect. The Kiwis did not know what hit them.

Commentators ran out of superlatives to describe sevens at its best, played by men with natural athletic ability and instincts.

These are qualities that he cannot teach but only enhance through his coaching style. And this has shone through in the last three years.

Even when the chips were down, Ryan remained positive and optimist. He is big on statistics and he used them to maximum advantage to motivate the boys and get the best out of them. There were times the fans’ confidence in the team dipped. But Ryan did not panic.

He knew if the team clicked, they can do wonders. We got the biggest scalp of the sevens circuit, the coveted Hong Kong crown at a venue dubbed the Holy Grail of 7s. We capped it off nicely with the back to back win.

We deserved to celebrate our success last week with our returning heroes.

While we did not win the Paris and London sevens, we had amassed enough points to take out the series. But the task is not over yet. It’s like climbing Mount Everest.

We are at the last point before we make the final push to the summit. It won’t be easy

It will be an exhilarating feeling when Ryan and his men stand at the top waving the Fijian Flag and flashing the gold medal.

So from here onwards, all eyes are trained on the summit which is Rio.

Ryan and the players will have been well rested after this two-weeks break before they resume training.

The preparation will lift to another level  and it presents a new challenge. The absence of top class sevens competition before Rio can be a worry. Such competition  make players battle-hardened.

They have two clear months of training before Rio to get everything ready and right. We are fortunate here that we are not short of good local players who can give Ryan’s men a taste of what they can expect in Rio.

The London and Paris tournaments showed the team lacked the killer instincts to finish off the job.

In Rio there will be no second chance in the business end of the tournament. Every game will count.

Our latest victory has not gone unnoticed by the big names in the world media industry.

CNN reports Hollywood might be interested in doing a big box office movie “in this island of dreams.”

“It’s a classic tale: A burned-out high achiever escapes to a tropical paradise where he is venerated by the locals after reviving the fortunes of their national “religion.”

In appearance the Englishman at the center of this incredible journey probably isn’t quite in the league of heart-throb actors such as Burt Lancaster or Gary Cooper — who both brought the Pacific Islands to the silver screen in the 1950s — but he has become a leading man in his own right in Fiji.

Indeed, there are echoes of the mid-20th century Melanesian cargo cults, though Ben Ryan is not seeking to bring Western goods to his worshipers — he has set his sights on gold.

A self-described “44-year-old ginger bloke with glasses,” Ryan is hoping to achieve the ultimate Hollywood happy ending by guiding the tiny nation to its long-awaited first Olympic medal, as coach of its rejuvenated, all-conquering rugby sevens team. The fact is the entire nation of Fiji is fully behind him.

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