8 months ago


The Fijian Drua was traditionally and formally welcomed in Lennox Head, home of the New South Wales Government’s Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre and the Drua’s base camp for the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific Season.

Located on the Far North Coast of NSW, the Lake Ainsworth facility will provide both housing and training for the Fijian Drua squad in their debut Super Rugby Pacific season. The Drua squad was welcomed by Bundjalung custodian, Lois Cook, Member of the NSW Legislative Council Ben Franklin, Ballina Shire Council Mayor David Wright, rugby personalities and community leaders.

The Drua received a traditional Welcome to Country ceremony, a solemn invitation and acknowledgement of their presence on Ngangbul Country in the Bundjalung Nation of Eastern Australia. The squad reciprocated and expressed their gratitude for the traditional welcome by singing Vanua Domoni, a traditional song about their beloved land and country. The event was officiated by renowned rugby commentator and personality Greg Clark and featured former Wallaby and Queensland Reds flyhalf and Lennox Head resident Berrick Barnes. Fijian Drua Head Coach Mick Byrne participated in the event, sharing the squad’s plans and objectives for their historic first Super Rugby season.

Speaking on behalf of the squad, Fijian Drua forward Ratu Meli Derenalagi said their welcome experience was humbling for the team. “As Fijians, we know very well the importance of culture and being traditionally accepted into a new community. We are very humbled today to receive this acknowledgement of our presence here in Eastern Australia, and we have the utmost respect for the First Nations people of Australia. On behalf of the team, I’d like to sincerely say VINAKA VAKALEVU to the Bundjalung Nation for welcoming us to Lennox Head.”

Fijian Drua Interim CEO Brian Thorburn said the franchise was overwhelmed by the support shown by the Lennox Head community and NSW Government. “We thank the traditional owners, community heads and of course the NSW Government for making us feel so welcome here. The NSW Government has been a wonderful partner, and has worked tirelessly to meet our Club’s needs which helped us confirm Lake Ainsworth as our 2022 base.”

Thorburn added: “In addition to its world class facilities which are ideal for a professional rugby club like ours, Lake Ainsworth and Lennox Head offer an intimate town and community setting which will be familiar to our players. The facility and its location works on two levels; balancing our need for focussed preparations for a gruelling first season with a relaxed environment with all other amenities our players and staff need. We’re confident that the squad will be comfortable for the next eight months as we prepare for and compete in the toughest professional rugby competition in the world.”

Minister for Sport Natalie Ward welcomed the Drua to Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre.

“Fiji is one of the most exciting teams in world rugby and NSW is excited to host the Drua as they enter the Super Rugby competition for the first time,” Mrs Ward said.

Member of the Legislative Council Ben Franklin said the facilities at the Centre would provide the perfect environment for on-field success.

“The decision of the Drua to base themselves at Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre reinforces the centre’s reputation as a centre for high-performance excellence, Mr Franklin said.”

“The North Coast has some of the best facilities in NSW and we welcome these elite sporting athletes to the region.”

Owned and operated by the NSW Office of Sport, Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre is one of the premier high performance training venues in NSW with a track record of hosting national, international and professional sporting teams. Located just minutes from the township of Lennox Head, the facility is adjacent to the ocean, and the beautiful Lake Ainsworth.