Traditionally the positions that we struggle to produce world class quality are the creative positions of fly-half in Rugby and the halves combination of five-eight and halfback in Rugby League.
Now that’s not to say we haven’t had talent in those positions, we’ve certainly had players do more than a serviceable job, sometimes even playing out of position. Players like Ryan Millard at the 2013 RLWC, a centre by trade, fullback Jarryd Hayne at the 2017 RLWC and even Kevin Naiqama at the latest Fiji Bati test matches.Embed from Getty Images
That being said, we’ve gathered the names of the Fijian’s who are either fly-halves, five-eights or halfbacks and done our best to rank them 1-6. As always we consider their club and international performances regardless of their respective national team. Players considered are either Fijian born or partly Fijian through ancestry. Sevens players who fit this criteria outside of the Sevens arena were also considered.
6. Henry Raiwalui (Halfback 2016-2019)
Former Wentworthville Magpies halfback Henry Raiwalui was first called upon in 2016 for the Fiji Bati and again in 2017 as the starting halfback for the RLWC.
He started every game in the World Cup including the tryless yet victorious Quarter Final against New Zealand. Raiwalui over delivered showcasing his composure under pressure and great support play.
5. Aaron Groom (Halfback 2010-2014)
Aaron Groom first appeared for the Bati at the 2008 World Cup, leading the team to it’s first ever Semi Final. In 2013 he led what was probably the most complete Fiji Bati team to date, guiding them to a second successive Semi Final.Embed from Getty Images
Despite his size Groom showed great courage in defense and was a constant threat with ball in hand. He didn’t have a recognised halves partner and did most the organising and management himself.
4. Alivereti Veitokani (Fly-half 2016-2019)
One time sevens player Ali Veitokani’s breakout season came in 2018 when he lead the Fijian Drua to their first ever NRC championship. He was awarded the NRC rising star award and would go on to represent the national 15’s team at either fly-half or fullback.
In 2019 he was selected in John McKee’s 31 man squad for the Japan RWC and later signed by Premiership club London Irish for the 2019/2020 season. Veitokani’s progress will be a key factor for Fiji going foward.
3. Seremaia Bai (Fly-half 2010-2016)
Seremaia Bai floated between fly-half and inside-centre most his career and was known for his reliability and composure. He didn’t possess the speed and athleticism that most Fijian backs are gifted with but he constantly broke the line and troubled defenders with his vision and smarts.
Bai was the Flying Fijians starting fly-half at the 2011 RWC and played in over 50 tests between 2000-2016. His club career from 2010 include stints at Castres in France and the Leicester Tigers in the UK. He made a combined 120 appearances for the two clubs up until his retirement in 2016.
Before we get to our top two shot-callers, we’d like to mention a few players who were also considered: Nicky Little, Waisea Luveniyali, Brandon Wakeham, Teti Tela, Ryan Millard, Alipate Noilea, Peceli Nacebe and Caleb Muntz.Embed from Getty Images
2. Josh Matavesi (Fly-half 2010-2019)
In 2009 Josh Matavesi was selected in both the Fiji Under 20’s side and the senior side. He gained selection at the 2015 and 2019 RWC’s as a backup fly-half, fullback or inside centre. Whilst he never was the starting playmaker for Fiji full time, he proved solid coverage and was never afraid to take risks.
Josh played for a number of top sides in Europe including Exeter Chiefs, Racing Metro, Worcester Warriors, Ospreys and Newcastle where he is currently based. He gets out number 2 spot due to his longevity at club level for the entire decade and always being available for Fiji despite limited minutes when selected.
1.Ben Volavola (Fly-half 2013-2019)
Racing Metro and current Flying Fijian’s fly-half Ben Volavola switched allegiances to Fiji prior to the 2015 RWC after constantly being overlooked by the Waratahs for selection. His time with Fiji seemed to have kicked his career into gear as he went on to play for the Crusaders and Rebels in the years following before moving to France, signing with Bordeaux.
He gained selection again in the 2019 World Cup as the starting fly-half, this time proving to be a more seasoned and well rounded player. His kicking game constantly turned the opposition around and got Fiji out of trouble, had great pass selection and linked well with the backs.
Ben will have a lot more competition for the number 10 spot for the next World Cup from the likes of Caleb Muntz and Teti Tela but his experience and exposure at top club level will hold him in good stead
Join in the conversation
That concludes our list of top 6 Fijian halves for the decade 2010-2019. Do you think we’ve missed anyone? Join in the conversation below and tell us what your list would look like.