Franchise, Overseas Comp Option For Fiji Rugby

The Fiji Rugby Union should look at venturing out the box to build a stronger player base for our Flying Fijians. One option is to revive the franchise-based competition to
31 Jul 2016 10:50
Franchise,  Overseas Comp Option For  Fiji Rugby
Coke Zero Deans quarterfinal action between Marist and Lelean at the ANZ Stadium in Suva yesterday. Marist won 28-3. Photo: Vilimoni Vaganalau

The Fiji Rugby Union should look at venturing out the box to build a stronger player base for our Flying Fijians.

One option is to revive the franchise-based competition to complement the annual Skipper Cup and the Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy challenges.

The franchise competition was dropped after four years because of low crowd turnout. That was largely due to poor marketing. The last competition was in 2008.

But significant to note that during this period, the Vodafone Flying Fijians scored their most famous World Cup victory when the Ilivasi Tabua-coached side upset Wales during the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, to qualify for the Cup quarterfinal against South Africa.

Then we slipped badly in 2011 when Wales humiliated us 66-0. The Vodafone Flying Fijians only managed a win against Namibia in New Zealand.

Last year we played well against England, Australia and Wales but again we came back second best only managing a win against Uruguay.

The Vodafone Flying Fijians are currently ranked 10th by World Rugby but we can do better than that. We need more top competition to move to the next level. We need a stronger player base at home too, rather than just relying on our overseas players.

The Rugby World Cup measures our progress over four years and it’s time we innovate to become more competitive. We need to do our homework on the local front because the current local competition does not provide us with the ideal player pool ready for international duties. We must raise the bar. That means a competition higher than the provincial competition similar to Super Rugby.

That’s why it could be worth revisiting the Colonial Cup franchise competition format played between 2004 and 2008 which was Fiji’s first attempt to introduce a professional rugby competition

The objective was to bridge the gap between the provincial rugby and test rugby and streamlined to prepare local players for the international stage. Provincial unions were grouped into four franchises along geographical lines and players were paid $100 a week plus lodgings.

The competition ceased to operate after low crowd turnout but good marketing, incentives and publicity should make the competition more exciting,

Like Rugby League, the FRU should explore opportunities of having a team taking part in competitions in either Australia or New Zealand.

The SANZAR tournament comes to London for the first time when Australia take on Argentina at Twickenham Stadium on October 8, the final game of the series that also includes New Zealand and South Africa.

The Pumas joined The Rugby Championship in 2012 and have recorded wins over Australia and South Africa while the entry of the Jaguares team in Super Rugby this year has created more opportunities for Argentina to strengthen their player base.

We need to build a player base for our Vodafone Flying Fijians and playersw need to be involved in a vibrant and exciting competition so that we could be competitive on the global front.


Feedback:  oseab@fijisun.com.fj

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