Well what a year it’s been. From cancelled matches to cancelled seasons and everything in between. We take a look back at the year that was in Fiji Rugby, Rugby League and Sevens.
The National Sevens team came in as defending series champions but things didn’t go so well at the opening Dubai event. Fiji failed to qualify for the Quarter Finals after an early loss to Argentina and would eventually finish 9th.
They finished 4th in the Cape Town tournament that followed and would again miss the Cup Quarter finals at the Hamilton leg.Embed from Getty Images
Their first tournament win of the season came in Sydney, a place where Cup glory has eluded Fiji in the past. They finished second in Los Angeles and 7th at Vancouver before the rest of the series was postponed and ultimately cancelled due to the Covid Pandemic leaving Fiji in 3rd spot behind South Africa in second and New Zealand in first.Embed from Getty Images
A shame the season ended early as Napolioni Bolaca was on a hot streak and really starting to come into his own as a playmaker. He was Fiji’s best at the Sydney Sevens and carried that form for the rest of the series. If his 2020 form is anything to go by then the sky is the limit for the Lautoka native.
Only last week Jerry Tuwai was honoured with the IRB Sevens player of the decade award. This following his player of the series award last year. Truly is remarkable how far Jerry has come as a player.
From playing bare foot on his roundabout to winning Olympic Gold to being the best player in the Sevens World. The best part is there is still more to be written in the career of Jerry Tuwai.
The Fijiana Women’s Sevens continued to grow as a team and showed much improvement. Things started slowly at the first leg in Denver, USA finishing 11th but they were far more consistent over the next four tournaments.
At Dubai they finished 7th and followed that up with a 6th placing in Cape Town before taking 8th spot in Hamilton. Their best showing came in Sydney where they placed 5th overall. Their season was cut short and the remaining three legs were cancelled.
They will look to continue that improvement going into the Olympics in the coming year.
Sevens Player of the year
It was a short season and as always there were many good performances but we will give this to Napolioni Bolaca just ahead of Sevuloni Mocenacagi.
The Kaiviti Silktails kicked off their historic first season playing their first match against the Windsor Wolves in the NSW Ron Massey Cup. The immediately let their presence be felt after a resounding 40-16 win. Sadly that’s where the season ended as all remaining matches were cancelled.
The Silktails have recently announced their top 15 players. They also will be based in Sydney next year which will ensure they do get to play the upcoming season.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see our National League teams the Bati and Bulikula this season after promising results from the previous year. The Bati were penned in to play tier one nations New Zealand and Tonga following their winning Oceania Cup campaign last year, beating Samoa and PNG. The international Rugby League season fell victim to covid though and all matches were postponed indefinitely.
Their attention will now shift towards the upcoming 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England where Fiji are pooled with World Champions the Kangaroos, Scotland and Italy.
Like everything else, the NRL was also affected by the global pandemic with their season split but the NRL led the way and restarted their season ahead of other professional leagues. A couple Fijians enjoyed great success though in 2020 on the club scene. Viliame Kikau and Api Koroisau were vital in the Panthers history making 17 match winning streak.
Both players are were key figures with Koroisau being credited by many as the catalyst to the change in the Panthers fortunes. Kikau would also be named Dally M second rower of the year for his efforts this season.
Around the league
Mikaele Ravalawa started to show his potential at the Dragons and by the end of the year was a crowd favourite for his big hits and stunning tries. King Vuniyayawa and Isaac Lumelume made their first grade debuts this season for the Warriors and Storm while Semi Valemei got the call up for the Green Machine in Canberra.Embed from Getty Images
Suliasi Vunivalu would finish on top with the Storm taking out the premiership over the young Panthers side. In his final game in the NRL and for the Storm he scored one final try which will go down as one of the great grand finals tries. His intercept run was also a key moment in the game.Embed from Getty Images
Rugby League player of the year
Our Bati forwards Viliame Kikau, Jacob Saifiti and Daniel Saifiti all had a big years while Suliasi Vunivalu and Kevin Naiqama both won premierships but we thought Api Koroisau was the best this year amongst all the Fijians in Rugby League.
Many of us would have enjoyed watching Bristol this season as Semi Radradra was unleashed on the Gallagher Premiership. He dominated games and showed his attacking prowess. During the season he was being hailed as arguably the best player in the World such was his dominance at times.
Nemani Nadolo returned to Premiership rugby with Leicester and also made his return to the national team.
The Super Rugby season was split up and cut short but a few players stood out this year namely Hoskins Sotutu and Filipo Daugunu who both made their international debuts for the All-Blacks and Wallabies respectively. Blues prop Alex Hodgman also made his All-Blacks debut in 2020.
There was no NRC this season so we didn’t get to see the Fijian Drua or the Fijian Latui in Global Rapid Rugby. Going forward nothing is on the radar for these two teams with both competitions being called off for the immediate future.
The initial excitement over Fiji’s inclusion in the Autumn Nations Cup quickly disappeared when their first three matches were cancelled after it was revealed 29 of the 32 squad members tested positive for COVID19. This was a real head scratcher for fans as there wasn’t much more revealed leading to rumours and conspiracy theories. There was also anger over the fact the team was given a loss and 0-28 scoreline for each of those three cancelled matches.
We got to see them once. In true Fijian fashion everyone quickly moved on from the disappointment and the boys came out firing to put Georgia to the sword.
It was just enough to finish the year off on a high and put a smile on everyone’s faces. The scenes of Nemani Nadolo holding back tears at the post match interview truly showed how much it meant to him to wear that jersey. His man of the match performance after two years in international retirement was remarkable.
Player of the year
There were some real standouts right across the globe in their respective competitions. Virimi Vakatawa has cemented himself as the most dangerous centre in a tier one jersey. Nathan Hughes returned to his best for Bristol and as we mentioned earlier, Sotutu was one of the best players in Super Rugby this season.Embed from Getty Images
We will have to give this one to the man from Somosomo, Semi Radradra. That’s three World class competitions he has absolutely carved up. The NRL, French Top 14 and now Gallagher Premiership.
This season he took things to another level following his five star display at the World Cup last year and was deservedly nominated for the European player of the year award alongside Vakatawa.
The FRU all but confirmed matches against the All-Blacks and Ireland next year. What the team will look like exactly is anyone’s guess right now but with Vern Cotter in charge and what seems like a new standard for the Flying Fijians in being competitive in every game if not victorious, Fiji will really look to give the worlds best a shake.
Should Fiji have its best side available with sufficient warm up games and preparation time, there is every reason to believe they can win both games.
Join in the conversation
We would love to hear from you. What were your best moments from this season? Join in the conversation and drop a comment below.