21 Apr 2020 Fiji Tour Report – Joe Langtry
To help us relive an unforgettable experience on our recent Fiji tour for years to come, Club Captain Joe Langtry has kindly put together the below Tour Report that details a day-by-day account of the Players Tour. Enjoy!
2020 Vikings Rugby Fiji Tour
Nick Scrivener –Director of Coaching/Coach
Brendan Allardyce – President/Assistant Coach
Rata Going – Assistant Coach
Lee Boswell – Strength & Conditioning Coach
Greg Hayes – Tour Manager
Rory McQuinn – Assistant Tour Manager
Kate Wafer – Physiotherapist
Damien Davies – Strapper & Trainer/Assistant Tour Manager
TEAM DK (named in recognition of Radike Samo)
OGRE’S ARMY (named in recognition of Geoff Adam)
RAGING ROFFS (named in recognition of Joe Roff)
TEAM CHRISTIAN (named in recognition of Christian Lealiifano)
Day 1 – Saturday 29/2
Early meeting time of 7am for a 7:30 departure from Viking Park. Nutritious breakfast at McDonalds Sutton Forest was had by most on the bus journey to Sydney. New and returning players/staff introduced themselves to the group and attempted to share a joke, some with more success than others. Honourable mention to Tupou Lolohea and Rata Going (better known as Karaan).
Arrived and checked in at Sydney airport. To his dismay, Remsy Lemisio had already misplaced the team mascot, though he looked the part with his Vikings helmet in immigration. Trai Henderson and Jack Evenden also left thinking what could have been after momentarily misplacing passports.
A short plane ride later we touched down in Fiji. The group quickly realised the small allowance for sweat the tour shirts would afford them, as they exuded a good pong. A second feeding of McDonalds for the day, this time for dinner, had the group in good spirits – the unusually large quantity of Coca-Cola that made its way back onto the bus post-Maccas was laid blame for this. A bumpy bus ride and scenic beach side wee-stop later, we arrived at our accommodation, the Uprising Resort. All straight to bed after a long travel day – enough time however to realize that the accommodation block with air conditioning was going to be well used.
Day 2 – Sunday 1/3
One of the best days of the trip.
Up early to discover just how good the buffet of the Uprising Resort was, followed by a short bus trip to a nearby jetty. All boarded the two-tiered boat for our journey out to an Island in Pacific Harbour. From the bottom deck, the only notable happening was the small black item that cartwheeled off the top deck and disappeared into the sea behind us – curiosity later settled after learning of Tupou’s desire to capture a hands-free selfie of the boat from the seafloor.
Arrival at the island was well received as boys jumped off the boat and swam into the beach. Time was enjoyed at the island – most consuming their day with snorkelling, beach volleyball, cricket, touch, ‘cheap’ refreshments, and denying Jed Englert and Hunter Davis the use of their sunscreen. The group also enjoyed a Kava ceremony and traditionally prepared lunch.
Mid-afternoon we departed the island with some memorable experiences, heading back to the Uprising. At night we were lucky to be entertained by a local musical cover act that hit bullseyes with every song. Lukey Gersekowski provided a strong vocal backing and birthday boy JD Lealiifano lit up the beach bar’s dancefloor with some moves that would make a chess master weak. It was also here that most gained an appreciation of the Fijian ‘Gold’.
Day 3 – Monday 2/3
A shaky start to Monday morning (and afternoon, for some) will be the lasting memory of Monday for most. Boz’s well thought through teambuilding exercise on the beach galvanised the group as we struggled through some undesired physical exertions.
A forwards and backs split followed. The backs had a unit meeting and set goals for the first game. Mid-morning the groups swapped as the backs made their way to what was supposed to be a ‘5minutes walk away’ gym. The gym was sweaty. Very sweaty. Jeremy Mututu was shirtless approximately 15seconds into the workout. A run back to the Uprising and lunch followed.
In the afternoon we trained on the pitch we would play our first game on. This was located at the Uprising resort so was only a short walk away. It would be a first for most, as we realized it was an artificial surface. We trained well, and after the initial bemusement wore off, did our best to adapt to the new ground.
Our first recovery session introduced us to something that a lot will miss most about Fiji – swimming. The Uprising’s beach and pool were awesome. In addition to the recovery sessions, it would also become the stage for much fun, socialising, and wrestling, amongst various other activities.
Dinner was as a team out at a nearby local restaurant, but all were soon in bed with the knowledge that our first game was the next day.
Day 4 – Tuesday 3/3
Today was the much anticipated first game against the Fijian u20 Barbarians. The group had a laid-back morning before the afternoon fixture.
The hot and humid playing conditions made the match a struggle for all, particularly those graced with playing the full 80minutes. The team however showed good composure to contain and scramble against a fast and skilful opposition. With ball in hand, the boys showed glimpses of some good phase play amongst what was always going to be a scrappy first hit out for the year. The highlight of the game came early as ‘Jye-Time’ Clarke opened up his legs on a kick chase and finished off a long distance try. Final score Tuggeranong Vikings 36 defeated Fijian u20 Barbarians 26.
That evening saw the ‘Gold’ flow as perhaps one of the club’s most picturesque court sessions was held beach side. Thankfully, the overhead palm trees withheld dropping any coconuts for the evening’s proceedings. A good night was had as the group was enlightened by the details of stories of some adventures over the past few nights.
Day 5 – Wednesday 4/3
A latish start to the day began with some more mini-group team building activities. Certain members of the playing group were (and definitely still are) confused by the rules of tic-tac-toe – Ben Pratt. Team Christian however showed to be the best of a bad bunch. Tom Hooper proved he was handy at swinging an old water bottle, coming up trumps for Ogre’s Army. The hopping contest, after some dubious judging, went to the Raging Roff’s – a quick mention to Jed Englert who competed despite an ankle that was visibly in distress.
The afternoon was set aside for free time. The group went every which way – a fishing trip and excursions to Suva the most popular choices, both of which were enjoyed. An organised fishing charter unfortunately fell through for some boys. Reece Chin ensured the day would not go to waste for them however, as he perished at Base Camp of the self-proclaimed Everest challenge he attempted.
Day 6 – Thursday 5/3
Never has this writer seen or felt youthful enthusiasm and exuberance exit souls faster than it did on Thursday morning.
Thursday morning a fitness training session on the famous Sigatoka Sand Dunes was organised through Vikings old boy and current Sigatoka rugby coach, Gus Anderson. The jury is still out on whether Gus should be thanked for the sand dunes session, nonetheless the group got a lot out of the dunes, and the experience provided by his input will be long remembered by all in attendance.
The day kicked off when Sione Mau was quickly reminded that a bus ride departure time of 5am does not warrant the dorm lights going on at 3:45am. Shortly before 5am, the boys awoke for a second time and boarded the bus for the Sigatoka sand dunes – YouTube it. While most slept or chatted on the bus, dietitian Jayme Field saw it as an opportunity to carb load for the morning ahead. It was early in the session (approximately 10 secs into a 50minute session), that we realised just how hard it was going to be. The group however showed great tenacity and displayed a feeling of ‘doing it for each other’ throughout, to get through the tough slog. Dietician Field admitted afterwards that his prior nutritional undertakings were perhaps misguided.
A well anticipated brekky and ice-cream at Sigatoka ensued. This was followed by a visit to the village of Nahautabu Rara – a small village on the Sigatoka river. Access to and from the village was via jet boat, which the group relished. The visit provided some memories that will stick long with the touring party. A village welcome in the Chief’s house, a kava ceremony, traditional lunch, and music entertainment turned full blown dance party, were just some of the touching moments from the visit. Vikings Chief Nick Scrivener expressed the group’s appreciation for the hospitality through a short speech and strong leadership during the interpretive dance component of the visit. The group also presented an assortment of Vikings Rugby kit to an appreciative village representative.
Upon return to the Uprising, we were treated to an Island-themed dinner and party by the resort staff. Music, kava, and food were all consumed in high quantity. This was also a saddened and reflective occasion as it marked our last night at the Uprising, and a goodbye to the staff that we had become so very close to.
Day 7 – Friday 6/3
Another early start and goodbyes to our hosts at the Uprising resort before a bus trip to our home for the next two nights, Smuggler’s Cove, Nadi.
Some free time when we arrived was used by most for a swim and some R&R. A short team meeting and training session at Nadi International School followed. Cameron Holt and Richard Joyes had a touching embrace during the ‘it’s contact but not contact’ warmup. A brief moment of anguish was had by some players at training as they realized they would be playing the full 80 minutes. Lee Boswell was also very quiet, sporting a demeanour of concern that he would perhaps need to back up his tough talk after notification he may also have to play.
The group enjoyed the sponsors’ dinner and drinks on our penultimate night in Fiji. The sponsors touring group had enjoyed a day in the islands and Slats’ behaviour was indicative of a husband with a soon to be born child, squeezing the most he could from the first couple of days abroad.
Day 8 – Saturday 7/3
Pre-game activity on Saturday was limited. Most enjoyed a swim at the beach or a sleep, and worked through their own game day nuances knowing that today’s fixture would be a tall test.
The group bussed to a neighbourhood rugby oval complex in Lautoka and inspected the pitch and prepped themselves for the match. Knowledge of the opponent’s strong physicality and offloading game were taken into consideration in the lead up to kick-off, but it could not be contained as the Lautoka Select XV scored four tries in rapid succession to commence the game. After a shaky start we became more settled in our approach to handling the heavy track and our opponent’s ‘ball-alive’ play.
The boys dug in deep and were rewarded with a deserved try to Remsy Lemisio. Some tired and exhausted bodies from both sides continued to push each other right up until the final whistle. A one-try all second half was a fair reflection of the way that game finished, but the Lautoka side were far better early and finished deserved winners. Final score Lautoka Select XV 34 defeated Tuggeranong Vikings 5.
In a testament to the spirit the game was played in, most Vikings players left the ground in nothing but their budgies, having given away all of their kit. The hymn, prayer, exchanges, interactions, and farewell song delivered by the Lautoka rugby community at full time provided some memories for life for the touring group.
The final night in Fiji featured some very poor vocal demonstrations by the Colties on tour. A somewhat melodic rendition of ‘I’m Yours’ by Reece Chin won out. Stories of Tribe, American tourists, bonfires, hot chips, 22minutes of sleep, cab rides to bottle shops…. from the last night will no doubt be retold over time.
Day 9 – Sunday 8/3
An early start for our venture home featured a bus that didn’t turn up, the resurrection of Cameron Holt, and a well appreciated Burger King at the airport. Despite some initial concern, Richard Joyes was allowed to board the plane and return to Oz. A very sleepy bus trip (feat. trainwreck-snoring by Tom Hooper) down the Federal Highway took us back to Viking Park where we parted ways.
Vinaka vaka levu to the players, staff, new Fijian friends and tour sponsors for the unforgettable experience.