Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
I’m delighted to be here today at the inaugural Fiji Rugby Awards to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments of our rugby superstars, and of the coaches and staff who help put them on their path to success.

Our nation is blessed with an abundance of rugby talent, and with many disciplined men and women who are committed to taking themselves to the next level. So I’m very happy that we finally have a night like tonight where we can celebrate and recognise the hard work and the exceptional skill of our Fijian ruggers.
When I travel the world, as I have often over the past year, it always brings me great pride to speak on what Fiji has accomplished in the world of rugby. People might not be able to place Fiji on the map. They might not know the name of our capital. They might not know much about us at all. But they know that we are a formidable rugby power, a force to be reckoned with. Our routine victories over larger, more resourced nations are a testament not only to our unrivalled dedication to this sport, but to the tenacity of the Fijian spirit. That same tenacious spirit has led Fiji to punch above its weight in so many other arenas on the international stage, whether it be in our United Nations peacekeeping efforts or our role as a global champion against climate change.

In a way, you are all ambassadors of Fiji, and you represent us well through your excellence on the field and your strength of character regardless of victory or defeat. To even be nominated for an award among such a competitive group is an honour, and I’d like to begin by congratulating all of our nominees on that achievement alone. Thank you for your contribution to the game of rugby, and I look forward to all you have yet to accomplish.

I would also like to thank all the partners of the Fiji Rugby Awards Night for making it possible to properly celebrate these talented men and women this evening, and give a big vinaka vakalevu to the year round sponsors and supporters of the Fiji Rugby Union for their invaluable support, which forms the foundation for all our rugby success as a nation.

2016 was a banner year for Fijian rugby and for every Fijian. There isn’t a Fijian alive who won’t always remember where he or she was when we won that Gold Medal in Rio. The taking of Olympic Gold by our Flying Fijians and the very strong performance of our Fijianas in Rio showed the world our calibre as a rugby nation and the fiery passion we Fijians have for the game. They also showed what people from a small nation can accomplish if they have enough determination, skill and strength of character. But it is also fair to say that we didn’t do it alone.

And before we begin tonight, I’d like to recognise coaches Ben Ryan and Chris Cracknell for their exceptional leadership throughout last season, along with all the management and staff on our Sevens sides. I know I speak for every Fijian when I express my sincere thanks for all your efforts. What you have helped Fiji achieve will never be forgotten and you will always have our gratitude. Vinaka vakalevu.

Thank you to everyone for being here this evening. Thank you to our team at the Fiji Rugby Union. I look forward to celebrating with all of you this evening – and congratulations again to all of our nominees. I hope you all enjoy tonight’s awards.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.