SPORTS

Revealed: Why Bati Prefers Hymn To War Cry

Their voices thundered at the Wollongong Stadium in Sydney, Australia, as the Vodafone Fijian Bati sang a hymn before their opening clash against France at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.
07 Jun 2020 14:55
Revealed: Why Bati Prefers Hymn To War Cry
The Vodafone Fijian Bati team singing “ This is my prayer” before a test match. Photo: RWLC

Their voices thundered at the Wollongong Stadium in Sydney, Australia, as the Vodafone Fijian Bati sang a hymn before their opening clash against France at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.

For the first time, the Bati had done away with their traditional war cry of ‘Quruquru Vatu’, which is usually performed before the start of a Test match.

Instead, they opted to sing the hymn ‘Oqo Na Noqu Masu’ (This Is My Prayer) which reflected on the team’s love for God and country.

For the first time captain Wes Naiqama broke his silence on the issue.

As captain for the 2008 side, Naiqama endorsed the singing of the hymn after then board chairman the late Peni Musunamasi, had raised the issue with him.

“We were a playing group then and obviously we had a travelling pastor who is still with us now,” Naiqama recalled.

“We were still learning so we talked about culture and what we wanted to be known for.

“We sat down and they explained to us what the traditional war cry meant.”

At the time, Naiqama says, the team pastor (Ilaitia Tagituimua) was holding a series of Bible study lessons with the team. It was based on David’s strategy to overcome Goliath.

“The pastor challenged us to go this way because faith plays a big part in our Fijian culture and it’s rich within our families.

“So as a playing group we sat down and thought it was an amazing idea of putting God in the forefront of our camp.”

Naiqama said this has been the highlight of every Bati campaign either at the World Cups or during the mid-year Test matches.

“We are using our platform to proclaim our faith in the Lord and it has captured the public but moreover it has impacted people’s lives as well.

“It feels so good when looking at social media, people from all different countries, from all different works of life are getting to know the hymn. It has been amazing.”

IMPACT

Naiqama said when they adopted the change in 2008 it had a big impact on some of the young players.

“One of them was Jarryd Hayne who later became a superstar of the game.

“What made it easy was that most of the squad members were local based-players. There were only five of us from Australia.

“Hayne did not know much about faith or Jesus until he joined camp.

“He even said it publically after the World Cup campaign that what he encountered in Fiji changed his life forever,” he said.

“That’s the thing we took on pretty easily and every day it came with the acceptance that you can just force people to sing the hymn. “This is because you’re in the team and as part of the culture you are to live it every day. “Also, you’ve to maintain that standard and it’s not hard to sort of adjust to it. If you are from a Christian background, it’s not so hard to buy into it.”

CHANGES

Once the hymn culture settled in, Naiqama says the coaching staff realised the bond among the players grew stronger.

“Our daily devotion was the most powerful thing. Once you start to breakdown those barriers especially on those who do not know about God.

“One player Eloni Vunakece, didn’t have any sort of belief but he came out a changed man. So it sort of brings the boys together and it was the highlight of my time in camp,” he said.

Wes Naiqama.

Wes Naiqama.

Naiqama said the evening devotions centred on players giving their testimonies and it made them much stronger.

EXPERIENCE

Naiqama said the experience of singing the hymn for the first time is always vivid in his mind.

“We had our first game in Wollongong against France and we were standing in a circle with the microphone in there.

“The silence was an amazing feeling and I’ve never experienced something like that ever before.

“So it just happens and this replicates every time we get into that group. You just feel the bond with the boys being pumped up.

“One minute they are singing the hymn so beautifully and next minute they are running into a wall of 12 people and its pretty fun.”

Naiqama said some NRL players couldn’t believe how good the players’ voices were.

“They sing so well but they are all big fans of it so they ask the translation, what it means and how it felt.

“It always received massive support and it’s growing even more and more.

“When we were in New Zealand last year we could see Kiwis in the crowd sing along with the words so it’s pretty cool and I’m honoured.

“As a Christian I have a sense of satisfaction to see that people from all walks of life singing the hymn.

“That means so much to us so it’s pretty cool and awesome they just love it.

“I think I the Crusaders once sung the song when they won the Super Rugby final.”

HYMN LEADER

Naiqama said fellow Bati teammate Jone Wesele was the man who led them during their hymn practice.

“Jone goes above and beyond his role because he is such a good team person.”

Edited by Osea Bola

Feedback: simione.haravanua@fijisun.com.fj



Got A News Tip


Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.


By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.


WEET BIX
For All Fiji Sun Advertising
Fijisun E-edition
Subscribe-to-Newspaper