As the footprint of Fiji rugby continues to grow internationally, so too is the engagement within the country at grassroots level through the Get into Rugby program (GIR).
GIR is an initiative aimed at encouraging children from as young as 7 to try the beloved game of rugby in a safety first programme and has proven to be extremely popular amongst the towns and villages of Fiji.
In 2018, more than 50 000 school children took part in the GIR program, creating a much more exciting challenge for Fiji Rugby development officers as interests grow for 2019.
Last Thursday a GIR Festival was held for the first time at Vunisalusalu Primary School near Savusavu bringing together schools from throughout the Natewa Bay region to participate in the one day festival.
This festival forms part of Fiji Rugby’s Development objectives of reaching all regions of the country to not only deliver the great game of rugby but also to unearth young fresh talent that may previously have been untapped.
FRU Development Coordinator North Mr. Maika Saqatanaivalu explained that the Natewa Bay West Coast region had never hosted a programme before and they’d received an overwhelming response from locals to bringing the GIR programme to the kids of the region.
“This festival is the culmination of the 3 GIR stations that have been conducted throughout the region from Udu point, down to Natewa Bay West Coast right to Nasinu a remote part of the Cakaudrove region.”
The GIR festival hosted almost 200 students from 6 primary schools in the Natewa Bay West Coast.
“Students participating are really enjoying it and we see that they are engaging in the program at the same time having fun.”
Fiji Rugby Development recent statistics shows that more young girls and women have shown keen interest in the game and their participation has increased every year.
This also gave them more confidence to take up the contact version in the later stages of their skills development.
Mr Maika explained that the programs non-contact edict makes it pretty safe that anyone can take part in.
“The good thing about the GIR program is the fact that it’s pretty safe and can be played by anyone.”
He explained that the festival is to raise GIR within participating school to another level.
“This is also what rugby is doing which is to get together people within a region coming together and participating in the game.”
Mr Maika further emphasized that GIR is bringing in very young children from as young as 8 and 9 coming together “such as what going on today and play and most importantly have fun and develop their skills on the game.”
He added that the main gist behind it all is to implant interest within young kids since that interest and enjoyment they’re experiencing might generate the urge in them to go another level and further develop their skills.
Now with the introduction of women’s teams in the Vanua Championship, having more children playing rugby from the grass roots level will increase the pool of talent and pathway rising up to the provincial competitions.
14 year old Maraia Rokonasiga shared her excitement in being part of the GIR program in which she express the fact that this platform has given her the opportunity to take part in sports which she really enjoys.
“I am really thankful for being introduced into GIR as I haven’t been part of any sporting activity and getting into this program has given me a chance to partake in sports and be active and healthy,” she added.
Vunisalusalu Primary Head Teacher Mr. Ravinesh Lal is very thankful that such program is being spread across their region which will help a lot of their children with serious potentials.
“GIR program being introduced to this region is very new and we thank Fiji Rugby for bringing this program into this part of the Island to expose our children to it.”
He added that the effectiveness of the program itself can surely generate the urge to the children knowing they’ve got what it takes to be a future rugby star.
“As you can witness raw talent and skills from these young stars are being exposed through these program, if we could see these skills even they themselves might not know what they’re capable of.”
They’ve got the skills and most importantly it’s good to see that they’re enjoying it.