We take a look back and recap the very first Rakaviti Fijian Flyer Fan Poll Series for the fastest Fijian Rugby player this century (2000-2020).
With a combined 6614 votes over 7 polls, the competition has been an overwhelming success. Much more engagement than we anticipated with the highest being 1043 votes in the Grand Final.
When it comes to Fijian wingers, maybe only the great Joe Levula is held in the same esteem as the Bua Bullet Rupeni Caucaunibuca. At his peak he was undoubtedly the most dangerous attacking player in World Rugby. With talent unseen at the top level through any code, it’s no surprise the fans have crowned him King of the Fijian Flyers.
Vione Flyer Marika Vunibaka was another favourite coming into the competition and claimed the silver medal. Through the late 90’s into the mid 2000’s the Rugby Sevens World Cup highest ever tryscorer scorched opposition players and scored countless long range tries for Fiji and the Crusaders.
Taking out third spot is Taveuni’s Semi Trailer Radradra. At the peak of his powers right now and through a hot run of form, Semi was always going to be hard to beat in the competition. He won heat 4 ahead of Vunibaka and finished second in his semi final to Caucau.
The other Grand Finalists
The Grand Final was a hot field and featured some of our biggest names. Fourth spot went down to the wire with Sireli Bobo (100) pipping Marika Koroibete (99) by 1 single vote! Another 5 votes back was Nadroga Flyer Joeli Lutumailagi (94). Not far behind him was the Hayne Plane on 88 votes and Rocketman Joe Rokocoko rounding off the finalists on 52 votes.
Marika Koroibete and Sireli Bobo headlined the first heat alongside favourite son Vilimoni Delasau, Mr Nitro Alasio Naduva, The Bus Josua Tuisova, Alipate Ratini, NRL premiership winner Sisa Waqa and the only player not an outside back in this competition, Niko Matawalu.
Naduva shot out to an early lead but was eventually overtaken by Koroibete. They took out first and second spots with Bobo and Ratini not far behind rounding off the players who advanced to the finals.
This heat had the closest 1,2,3,finish with only 13 votes between 1st and 3rd.
The second heat had a few retired greats and current fan favourites. Joeli Lutumailagi comfortably won this heat ahead of of former All-Black Joe Rokocoko. Hotstepping William Ryder was in second place in the first few fays of the poll but dropped back to 3rd towards the end.
Dual international Lote Tuqiri finished fourth and progressed to the final just ahead of Eels centre Waqa Blake with only 3 votes separating them.
Also unlucky to miss out was Maika Sivo who was only 10 votes behind Tuqiri, finishing 6th. Two big men rounded off heat 2 with Joe Cokanasiga on 42 votes ahead of Nemani Nadolo on 33.
In what looked like the toughest heat, only 1 player progressed to the Gold Medal Race, albeit the Gold Medallist himself, Rupeni Caucau who won this race convincingly.
Bati legend Akuila Uate comfortably took number 2 spot ahead of Sitiveni Sivivatu who claimed 3rd spot.
The race for fourth was the closest of any heat. Sevu Reece (107) managed to poll just ahead of Suliasi Vunivalu (99) and equal 6th Ratu Naulago and Samisoni Viriviri both on 95.
Henry Speight was a bit further back and unlucky to be in such a tough group. He rounded off an exciting heat.
The final heat was a cracker. Headlined by speed demon Marika Vunibaka and two time Dally M Medallist Jarryd Hayne.
Vunibaka, who was one of the favourites to win the competition, was upstaged by Semi Radradra who in lane 8, took out first position. He is the only heat winner who wasn’t in lane 4 or 5.
Sevens speedster Aminiasi “Tornado” Tuimaba finished fourth and claimed the last semi final position but not without outlasting Waisake Naholo who wasn’t far behind.
Filipo Daugunu who polled strong on the first day eventually finished 6th ahead of Bati skipper Kevin Naiqama (44) and French international Alivereti Raka on 43 votes.
Semi Final 1
With 1004 votes the fans voted Marika Vunibaka into first place ahead of Joeli Lutumailagi in the first semi final. Marika Koroibete was only 5 votes behind and finished 3rd.
In a bit of a twist, Jarryd Hayne, who was 3rd in the final heat finished ahead of Akuila Uate who polled very strong in heat 3 and finished second but was relegated to 5th in this final and missed out on a spot in the Gold Medal Race.
Sevu Reece claimed 6th spot ahead of Namosi flyer Alipate Ratini who was also tipped to go further. Former All-Black Sitiveni Sivivatu finished 8th, rounding off an exciting first semi final.
Semi Final 2
The second semi final featured two eventual medallists in Rupeni Caucau and Semi Radradra who finished 1st and 2nd respectively.
Not far behind the Trailer by 6 votes was Blazin Sireli Bobo who took out 3rd spot. Joe Rokocoko claimed the last Grand Final spot ahead of Mr Nitro Naduva who although finishing ahead of Bobo in his heat, finished a fair way back, but not far from 4th position.
Aminiasi Tuimaba finished 6th only 5 votes behind Naduva.
Two time NRL premiership winner Lote Tuqiri and Sevens legend William Ryder finished equal on 44 votes to round off another great race.
With the best of the first two decades decided, we’ll put more emphasis on current players next year. The best of the current crop that featured this year plus some of the players who didn’t get a shot.
Firstly, all of you that watched the videos, voted, shared, liked and commented on the series. We hope it was as much fun for you as it was for us.
Many thanks Matilda Jane from our blogging team on her input and to FijiSevensHL youtube channel for the editing and production of 7 epic videos.
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Tell us who what you thought
What did you think of the whole series? Who would you like to see next year?
Give us your thoughts in the comments below.