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Aussie Fijians eyed for World Cup bid Friday, July 21, 2006 THREE Australian first-grade players are lined-up for the Fiji Bati for the Rugby League World Cup play-offs in October.
Fiji RL News
by NRL

Aussie Fijians eyed for World Cup bid

Friday, July 21, 2006
THREE Australian first-grade players are lined-up for the Fiji Bati for the Rugby League World Cup play-offs in October.
Dragons centre Wes Naiqama, nephew of former goalkeeper Bale Raniga, is ruled out with an ankle injury but three others featuring in the National Rugby League Down Under are available.
Parramatta Eels hooker James Tora, South Sydney wing Wais Kativerata and Akuila Maqisai of Newcastle are being monitored.
"Former Bati manager Shane Morris, a development officer with the Melbourne Stormers, is keeping an eye on the players in Australia with Phil Brown, chairman of Australian Fiji Rugby League," said Bati manager Rusi Ratakele.
Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands will feature in the Oceania play-offs in October in Sydney.
The top two qualify for the Rugby League World Cup in 2008 and the third team goes through another qualifying round in the European region.
"It will be tough so we have to get the best players," Ratakele said.
A Fiji Residents side will take on Australian Fijians on September 20 to select the Bati side.
The 2008 Rugby League World Cup will be held in Australia to mark the sport's 100 years.



SOMETIMES certain situations pop up to serve as an inspiration, pricking at your very soul. For those in the know, there was one such experience on a windy Saturday afternoon, blanketed with intermittent showers.
When Manoj announced that Kalaveti Naisoro was going to play for the Lautoka Crushers rugby league side, I thought to myself, 'Sa maybe Manoj got it wrong'.
As a secondrower for the Namoli Steelers a few years back, I remember having set my sights firmly on Kala everytime we met on the field. I know most of my mates did as well.
But it was easy keeping him in your sights. The hardest bit was trying to catch this elusive nuggety centre.
I remember him as a strongly built player with a low centre of gravity which probably made it all the more difficult to catch him.
He had quads the size of some of our hips and calves that were twice as big as our biceps, and if that wasn't enough, he packed pace to burn.
So in reality, there we'd be, keeping him firmly in our sights, but most of the time watching a clean pair of heels whenever he made one of his runs through the tiniest of gaps.
So it was with a little trepidation that I made my way over to a wet and soggy Suva Grammar School grounds.
The Crushers were scheduled to play the Makoi Bulldogs.
The Crushers won that game, 18-12, and Kala played a major role.
Now the amazing bit is that this man from Nanoko in Navosa was still playing a sport that is arguably the toughest contact sport in the world, at the age of 37.
After about seven years, I noticed the quads were still there.
Even the calves were still there, as big as ever. He was still hovering around the 5ft 7" mark, but I didn't get to see his pace considering the heavy underfoot conditions.
There was no doubt about his passion and love for the game.
He'd played as an understudy to former national rugby union centre Noa Nadruku at the 1991 Rugby World.
Prior to that Kala had been the centre for the national Under 19 rugby union side that toured Australia in 1988.
He later switched to league and won test caps, playing for the Fiji Bati at the 1995 and 2000 World Cup in England.
Personally, the thought of him playing raised many questions. Especially as age catches on.
I remember this bit off the web, it points out that to 'help keep your brain young and prevent memory loss, avoid living on autopilot doing the same things day after day. If you stretch yourself mentally, you'll actually avoid brain shrinkage. The classic way to do that is to learn something new whether it's speaking Spanish or playing the harmonica. Like muscles, your brain grows when it's working beyond its normal routine.'
Kala was doing everything right on Saturday. He lurked on the fringes of the ruck, taking the first ball. He probed gaps, drew the defence before offloading for support runners to carve up territory through the tiniest of gaps.
At an age when most players overseas are either contemplating retirement or already having hung up their boots, here's a man still playing with tonnes of passion.
There was a piece in our sports pages of national sevens coach Waisale Serevi, at 38, already contemplating a foray at next year's Rugby World Cup.
But what keeps these men going?
Kala,reckons it comes from within. When the spirit is willing.
Former Steelers frontrower Ilisoni Rogoyawa reckons Kala is an example of what the mind can do.
While the play-the-ball area was scrappy in most of the games on Saturday, Kala was leaving the opposition for dead with his probing runs.
With forward enforcer Frank Wye out injured, the onus was on Kala to hold things together.
Exciting 23-year-old secondrower Ilisoni Vonomatairatu stood out with a number of line breaks in the leading tackle counts and complemented an impressive allround effort with bone crunching defence.
Prior to that game I'd watched Semesa Cadrakilagi lead Saru's assault on the Nadera Panthers. Semesa was inspirational, leading his young side from the hills of Lautoka well under pressure.
I came off inspired on Saturday.
The Crushers team had shrugged off many odds to reach Suva for the minor semi-finals in the Fiji National Rugby League competition.
Frank says they almost didn't make it. They'd had to pull out of the pre-season competition this year because "we didn't have any money, boy".
"We were fortunate to get $100 from Kemueli Qoro the lawyer, and $50 from Eparama Turaga for this trip," he says.
"The boys pitched in with $10 each for this trip which cost us $380 to hire a small bus.
Another former Steelers man, Joe Tuvuki offered them his rugby union club's jumpers and they were off to Suva.
"It's all in the heart man," Frank says.
"We all love this sport. We are having problems playing it, but where there's a will, there's a way, eh," he laughes.
Their story is one of commitment, passion, enthusiasm, and of a positive attitude.
It's a tale of playing against major odds to come off as one of the best teams in Western Division.
"We have a lot of players who have potential, talent and the love for the sport," Frank says.
"All they need is an opportunity to display their talents."
I can only wish the Crushers well in the tough world of sports sponsorship deals.
I watched as the Crushers, fresh from their win, washed up at the Nasese seafront because there was no bathroom available, cleaned themselves under a tap at the outdoor courts at Veiuto and changed into their travelling clothes before hopping into the bus, packed as sardines, for the four hour journey back home to Lautoka. I marvelled at the happy faces that packed the bus. For a minute there, I felt an overwhelming sense of emotion. I felt sorry for them. But then again, they play rugby league, arguably the toughest contact sport in the world. It was not meant for the faint hearted.
FRED WESLEY is a Sub-Editor with The Fiji Times


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