It’s a great pleasure to be here at the ANZ Stadium to kick off the first Commodore’s Community Challenge Tournament between Raiwaqa, Nabua and Lomaiviti.

All three clubs boast proud rugby traditions that extend back many years.  In the case of the Raiwaqa, to 1975, Nabua, to 1963, and Lomai, to 1936 when it was established in Rewa before moving to Suva in 1956.

All three have impressive records.

In 39 years Raiwaqa has won the Escott Shield three times – in 1999, 2003 and 2004 – and has produced players such as Eparama Tuivunivono, Apisai Donu, Netani Talei and Seru Rabeni.

Over its 51 year history, Nabua Rugby, which was founded by the Methodist Youth Fellowship, has won the Escott Shield once in 1984 and has brought up players such as Waisale Serevi, Tomasi Cama, Alifereti Dere and Sakiusa Matadigo, to name a few.

And Lomai Rugby, the oldest club here today, has won the Escott Shield six times and has trained up numerous players, like Sisa Koyamaibole ,Saimoni Rokini, Samu Saumaisue, Marika Vunibaka and former Suva and Fiji Under 20 Coach, Viliame Gadolo.

Given that the winner of the tournament will gain bragging rights for their club and community for the coming year, I’m sure we’re in for some spectacular competition this afternoon.

But to me, these records aren’t what’s most impressive about these clubs. What’s most impressive is the contribution they make to the development and empowerment of young people in their respective communities.

We all know the sorts of problems created when our children aren’t given positive outlets for expression and activity: too many get into far too much trouble.

Well, I’m very proud to see the positive community spirit that has formed around these clubs and I’m even more proud to see that much of this is being driven by young Fijians.

They are taking the lead in forging communities that are safer, stronger and – best of all – prouder.

As your Prime Minister, that’s why this tournament is truly important and that’s why it has the full support of my Government. Indeed, I hope it inspires similar tournaments in other parts of the country.

When I opened the new Raiwaqa rugby club house in 2012, I said that like in rugby, success in building a nation depends on team work and not just on the individual.

Only by each of us working together will Fiji achieve its true potential.

Only by hard work, persistence and determination can we build the new Fiji.

And so I would like to thank all of you – players, coaches, families and fans alike – for your efforts, hard work and sacrifices. It’s all part of the bigger picture of our national life and every little bit counts.

I’m particularly pleased today to be handing over the lease documents for Nabua Rugby’s fitness gym, as well as land for future development by Lomai Rugby. I sincerely hope that these things will help you in all the positive work you do in your communities.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure that you are anxious for the tournament to start, so it’s now time for me to wish you all an enjoyable afternoon of rugby.

To the players, I would like to say that this is your tournament, your time and your playing field. Play hard and play fair and may the best team win.

I now declare the first-ever Commodore’s Community Challenge Tournament open!