Monthly Archives: November 2015

Vanuatu Rugby League stronger despite setback

It was billed as the rebirth of rugby league in Vanuatu yet the annual Port Vila v Santo clash promises to unite a nation passionate about rugby league despite not going ahead.

In what has been a year to forget for the game in Vanuatu, the latest blow threatened to be the most devastating of all with the cancellation of flights over several days leaving the vast majority of Port Vila players stranded.

As a result, only four Fire Ants players already in Santo were available to take the field and combined with the entire Santo Boars training squad so that a game – any kind of game – could go ahead.

Players such as Noel Sweni from Port Vila ran onto the ground in Espiritu-Santo wearing his Fire Ants shorts, a borrowed Santo Boars jersey and his Vanuatu national socks, all so that he could play the game he loves.

Such is the determination of those in Vanuatu to see the game succeed that not even a cyclone, omission from the Pacific Games or this latest setback could quell their energy.

It was decided that the makeshift game would serve as the first selection trial for the national team for 2016 and there is a resolve to bring the Santo team to Port Vila before the end of the year so that the Boars and Fire Ants can play the game they were promised.

“After all my years in sport, I really don’t think I have ever felt the way I did on Saturday,” said Port Vila-based Brett Wright, strength and conditioning coach of the Vanuatu national team.

“After all the time, effort, sacrifice and hard work from every player, trainer, coach, administrator, board member, sponsor, footy fan, friends and family involved in the lead up – which was just over 12 months – it was absolutely devastating to have it taken away from us the way it was.

“The players put their minds, body and souls on the line for this game and absolutely ripped in.

“It was devastating to watch my Port Vila boys run out in Santo colours but the bigger picture was that we were all doing it for Vanuatu Rugby League.

“I can honestly tell you that the strength of bond between Port Vila and Santo has never been greater.

“The game could absolutely not have gone ahead even in the manner it did if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of Kevin, Therese and Shirley Henderson in Santo and we’ll do everything we can to bring the Boars across to play the game all these players deserve.”

Port Vila-Santo game full of meaning

Fire AntsSanto Boars

The Port Vila Fire Ants and Santo Boars are playing for much more than pride on Saturday November 21; they are playing to secure the future of rugby league in Vanuatu.

The Fire Ants will travel to Espiritu-Santo this Saturday seeking a fourth consecutive win over the Boars but more importantly to take up a rare opportunity to play the game that they love.

The fourth meeting between the two representative teams could not have come at a more important time as the after-effects of Cyclone Pam and exclusion of the Vanuatu Rugby League team from the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea has made it next to impossible for any rugby league to be played on the Pacific island in 2015.

In recent years the Vanuatu national team have played matches against the Solomon Islands, Niue, Greece and the Philippines but no international opposition could be found in 2015, making the annual Port Vila-Santo clash one of critical importance.

“It has been a struggle but we’ve managed to get the game to go ahead on the 21st which we see as the re-launch of sorts of the game in Vanuatu,” said Vanuatu Rugby League president Mr Tom Carlo.

“If the game had not gone ahead we had grave concerns for the future of the game at a domestic level.

“By not being able to participate in the Pacific Games this year we lost a lot of the momentum we had built up in recent years so it was imperative for the continued development of rugby league in Vanuatu that this game went ahead.

“It hasn’t been easy and it has taken a great deal of dedication from both players and officials but we’re delighted that on Saturday we will once again see the Fire Ants and Boars do battle.”

Members of the Port Vila team have been conducting fundraising events in recent weeks in order to make the game a reality and have continued to train despite doubts over whether the match would go ahead.

“Considering they have had very few opportunities to play this year the dedication of the boys from both teams to keep training and developing their skills has been tremendous,” said Brett Wright, strength and conditioning coach for the Vanuatu national team.

“Given the efforts they have made this year to not have staged this game would have been devastating but now we can look forward to a quality contest between two teams who simply love their rugby league.”

Not yet a full member of the Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation, Mr Carlo said that Vanuatu Rugby League will do everything it can to make sure the national team is once again given the opportunity to represent Vanuatu in 2016.

“We have been heartened by the progress of the likes of Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands since the 2013 World Cup and we are determined to also represent the Pacific in international rugby league,” Mr Carlo said.

“There is no question this has been a difficult year but we have the players and the passion to move the game forward.

“On the back of Saturday’s game between Port Vila and Santo we are confident that Vanuatu Rugby League will emerge bigger and better in 2016.”