CAPTION: Former All Black and rugby legend, Mr Eric Rush at the Rugby Centenary Conference, at the USP Japan-Pacific ICT Centre.
The University of the South Pacific hosted the Fiji Rugby Centenary Conference: Reflections on the Past, Present and the Future, the first of its kind in the region, at its Laucala Campus in Suva, from 1 to 2 July, 2013.
The event marked the 100th anniversary of the Fiji Rugby Union, and served as a platform for discussion for academics, students, rugby officials and avid supporters of the Pacific’s favourite sport.
The inaugural conference sought to promote dissemination of emerging research on Fiji rugby, foster discussions and promote collaboration between academic researchers, rugby practitioners, journalists, stakeholders and the public.
The conference consisted of panel discussions and seminar sessions, ranging from the history of rugby in Fiji, social mobility and migration of players, social inclusion and diversity, health and indicators of high performance to the role of sports science in rugby, and the role of Economics in rugby.
Rugby officials, players and fans also discussed the way forward for Fiji rugby.
In opening the conference, the President of the Republic of the Fiji islands, His Excellency, HonourableRatuEpeli Nailatikau, said the conference was an opportunity for lovers of the sport to get together and talk about their favourite topic.
His Excellency said that the sport needs to be continually developed at national levels for both social and competitive purposes.
The Dean of the Faculty of Arts, law and Education (FALE), Dr Akanisi Kedrayate, said it was a milestone for the University, to be able to focus its academic attention not only in conventional fields of study but also sport.
“The University is very delighted to be sponsoring and organizing this conference,” adding that the University was very grateful for the support of the Vice Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra, and the New Zealand High Commission.
“This has definitely brought in the community as well as the University, which emphasizes the goal of community outreach in our Strategic Plan,” Dr Kedrayate added.
“So this was another opportunity for community engagement, for cooperation with other stakeholders and for us as well as the community to recognize that the University is about research into various areas be it sports or academic disciplines or any other area, and it is also about engaging and encouraging other talents in academia and sports,” she added.
We are glad to have supported this, and we hope to encourage conferences in other sports as well in the future and have all of the University participating and presenting,” she added.
“The highlight of course was Eric Rush. It was a delight to just listen to him and his presentation was just tremendous,” she said.
Mr Rush, who had been flown in for the conference to address the Fijian public and the USP community, by the New Zealand High Commission said he had enjoyed the experience.
“It was kind of hard because I had to make it fun as people tend to remember when it’s humorous as well but I tried to put some messages in it. I think this is a big achievement for Fiji Rugby and it is an honour for me to be a part of it,” he said.
Mr Rush said that just the fact that people were talking about rugby, expresses the significance of the subject, and the conference was a very good opportunity for rugby fans and officials, as well as academics to deliberate.
One of the conference organisers, Dr Yoko Manemasu from the School of Social Sciences, said they had an overwhelming response from the public and the department was pleased with the turnout.
“We also had students coming in from local schools and who thoroughly enjoyed the programme. More importantly the messages and the issues that needed to be discussed were effectively relayed.
She said in celebrating the 100th year of the FRU, the conference sought to share information and give historical insight on rugby in Fiji, and with the active discussions throughout the conference, it was very successful.
“This is a very popular subject of discussion and so far, we can say the conference has been very successful,” she said, adding that this showed opportunity to host further sports-related conferences.