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2 months ago

Match Previews

Commentator Greg Clark shares one of the highlights of his career; the Fijian Drua first ever Fijian home game!

I thought I’d seen it all, but oh how wrong I was! The Swire Shipping Fijian Drua’s long-awaited homecoming was something extra special.

On my recent trip to Suva, I was asked by the Fiji Media Association to conduct a Commentary workshop. The budding Commentators were happy to hear my story and I enjoyed taking them through my journey in broadcasting.

After learning my craft in radio in Queensland and Auckland, I then moved into television. Fox Sports Australia hired me in the late 90’s and for the next 25 years it was game on. NRL at first then the move to Rugby Union. It was everything I had dreamed of. Hard work, but great fun.

20 years of Super Rugby including many Finals – the Brumbies titles in 2001 and 2004, the Reds in 2011 and the Waratahs in 2014 being the highlights. 214 Test Matches including three Rugby World Cup Finals, World Series 7s and Olympic and Commonwealth Games 7s.

I travelled the Rugby world and made lifelong friends along the way. I was content and convinced that I’d seen it all and done it all. Then along came the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua. It might have taken 26 years for them to arrive in Super Rugby, but the first ever game on home soil turned out to be something I’ll always cherish.

When CEO Brian Thorburn asked me to call their home games I didn’t have to think about it for long. I was there on day one when the squad assembled in Lennox Head last November.

I was there for their first official home game on the Sunshine Coast and have enjoyed watching them play their brand of attacking Rugby weekly. Sure, they make mistakes and their discipline and lineout work is a work in progress, but each week there are more positives.

I was really looking forward to the homecoming in Suva last weekend, but I had no idea that it would become one of the highlights of my career… what a wonderful surprise.

I loved the stories in the days leading up to kick off. Big T – Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta met his Fijian father for the very first time. Vinaya Habosi’s family and friends hired a bus to drive from Nadroga to the game, and there were many other special stories from the players’ villages.

Fiji was full of pride, passion and belief. At ANZ Stadium you could sense just how proud the players were to be in the Super Rugby Pacific spotlight at home at long last. When Frank Lomani scored in the opening minutes the passionate crowd erupted. 15,000 sounded like 50,000.

And even though the Highlanders were able to hit the front in the second half and hold on to spoil the party, there was a feeling of belief… a feeling that the Drua belongs at the elite level.

Ticket sales more than tripled in the days leading up to the game and let’s hope we feel the same excitement when the Drua hosts the Chiefs in Lautoka on May 28. It looks like being their final game of the season and they’ll be out to finish on a high.

But there are three more games before then. The Drua have to pick themselves up for the tough trip to Wellington this weekend, then it’s Moana Pasifika at Parramatta in Sydney, followed the Crusaders in Christchurch. It’s hard to see the Drua reaching the top 8… but they’ll certainly create some havoc in the remainder of the regular season.

Not surprisingly, Head Coach Mick Byrne has made changes this week. There were some tired and sore bodies after last week’s epic encounter in Suva and this week some of the wider squad members get a chance to stake a claim for a contract next year.

The Canes will be hurting after being over-run by the Brumbies in the second half in Canberra last week. I hope the Drua back their talent and put on a show in Wellington, but whatever happens this week and in the rest of the season, I’ll always remember the day I was in Suva for the Drua’s homecoming. Vinaka.