Troubled waters at Fiji Rugby although players continue to excel

With the Rugby World Cup 2023 just around the corner, Fiji Rugby is buzzing with activity.

Simon Raiwalui was recently announced as national team coach of the Flying Fijians with five assistant coaches, three of whom are of Fijian heritage, Senirusi Seruvakula, Seremaia Bai and Graham Dewes, as well as Glen Jackson and Brad Harris. This came with the announcement of Inoke Male as head coach of the undefeated Super W Fijiana Drua women’s team.

On the home front, Fiji Rugby fans were dismayed earlier this week when Fiji Rugby interim CEO Tevita Tuiloa spoke in a personal post on Facebook about the players’ well-being, their hardships and challenges, and the shocking news of a pledge fulfilled, a home and land package for Fiji’s international Rugby Sevens star Jerry Tuwai.

It was a promise from the previous Fiji First government, Frank Bainimarama, who is the current President of Fiji Rugby. A fact that does not surprise many.

Fijian Drua's Tevita Ikanivere is tackled.

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Last week, the interim CEO also expressed his concerns for the well-being of the players, citing the sudden death of 19-year-old Ratu Pasikali Naevo, who broke down training at Fiji Rugby High Performance Camp while preparing for the upcoming U20 Rugby World Cup prepared South Africa in June.

As the tragic news broke across the country, the staff running the camp were immediately terminated by Fiji Rugby unbeknownst to the interim CEO. In addition, to the astonishment of many, they were recalled three days later and suspended again, but are currently back in the training camp.

The interim CEO has been at the helm of Fiji Rugby since January 2023, following the retirement of John O’Connor. It seems that meddling in day-to-day operational affairs is Chairman Humphrey Tawake’s job.

The writing is on the wall. Administration at the country’s rugby house continues to deteriorate, led by the humiliated former prime minister and behind the scenes, Rasputin-like, Namosi Rugby Union president Francis Kean, two peas in a pod.

In 2007, Kean was charged with murder and convicted of manslaughter of a family member at a wedding, served two weeks in prison, got out of prison, was reinstated as Navy Commander in 2009, and later served as Commissioner of Prisons from 2016 to 2023.


Frank Bainimarama. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

In 2013, Fiji Rugby’s constitution was amended to include the Prime Minister. Previously, the people represented on the board had no political affiliation, some might argue otherwise. Kean oversaw the entry of relative Bainimarama that led to the implosion of Fiji rugby.

Bainimarama currently has a case with prosecutors over allegations of abuse of power after he forced his way into government in a coup and served as Prime Minister of Fiji from 2006 to 2022.

Historically, Fiji rugby has been plagued by financial and governance issues, reflecting the way the previous government did business. This culture has diminished the reputation of clean rugby in the local and international ecosystem, saved somewhat by the continued excellence of Fijian players who continue to excel around the world.

With an Annual General Meeting scheduled for April 16, 2023 ABC Fiji correspondent Lice Movono has reported that out of 28 affiliated unions in Fiji, only 20 percent are currently eligible to vote. Eighty percent of these are non-compliant. It is not known how long they were non-compliant.

It is also unknown whether work has been done to build compliance capacity in five areas, two of which are the most important, finance and gender. Supporters are calling for intervention by the current Fiji government. Is this also a sign of World Rugby intervention?

There are clearly two people at the helm of rugby in Fiji who are bringing the game into disrepute and working behind the scenes via current chairman Humphrey Tawake. Both Bainimarama and Kean hold votes in the powerful twenty percent who are compliant. Troubled waters at Fiji Rugby although players continue to excel

Russell Falcon

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