Fijian migrant workers bring rugby skills and song to Barossa Rams
Posted On May 13, 2022
At the end of every rugby match played by the Barossa Rams rugby team, you might be able to hear a hymn.
Fijian migrant workers are in the Barossa Valley to fill much-needed job vacancies
Fiji is one of the strongest rugby playing countries in the world
The Barossa Rams are experiencing great success with the team’s new players
The hymn is an opportunity for the team’s Fijian players to give thanks for the game they love, having recently joined the Rams in South Australia as part of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme.
Club president Fraser Vivian said the men, who work in Virginia picking tomatoes, arrived with plenty of skill and a love of rugby, but not much else.
“Two weeks before the season started, we had a little minibus roll up with 17 or 18 chaps piling out of the bus ready to take the field for a training session,” Dr Vivian said.
“Very few of them had rugby boots, very few of them had much in the way of gear appropriate to train in, but they were super eager.”
Fijian love for rugby arrives at Rams
Fiji has won gold medals at the past two Olympics for Rugby 7s and is well known for producing world-class rugby players.
Pacific Islands Council of SA chief executive Tukini Tavui says the game is important to the country.
“You just need to travel to Fiji and drive along the beach, or the sugarcane farms and they will be playing, sometimes they don’t have balls, they often just use coconuts,” he said.
Mr Tuvui said having something to do on a recreational level helps the workers embed themselves into the local community.
“They’ve really made a name for themselves in the region, and also for rugby in South Australia and the support that they are getting from the local community has really helped them.”
Rams on a winning rampage
The Barossa Rams Rugby Club, which started as a senior men’s team at the agricultural college in Roseworthy mainly made up of students from the eastern states and New Zealand, turns 45 this year.
The team is now based in Lyndoch with junior, women’s and men’s sides.
Dr Vivian said this year with the influx of international players the club had been able to form a second senior men’s team.
“Almost instantly it doubled our senior men’s players numbers, which was quite amazing to us.”
Dr Vivian said the players had brought more to the club than just rugby skills.
“These chaps have amazing skills, but they are always there to lend a hand and always the first ones to help pack up at the end of training.
Mr Vivian said the Fijian players had added to the rugby community, particularly with their gentle personalities.
“Rugby might be known for, you know, some boisterous personalities, and some people who are hard-hitting and hard at life. But these boys off the field, they are gentle, smiling, amazing, and for want of a better word, beautiful people.”
Love taking the field
Viliame ‘Bill’ Nawaqatabu, who came to South Australia a few months ago, said he jumped at the chance to take part in a local rugby club.
The tomato and cucumber picker plays back in Fiji.
“Some of my fellow Fijian friends came to our accommodation and asked us ‘do you want to play?'”
He agreed to play straight away.
“I love playing for Barossa Rams. They were telling us a story that last year they always lose but now they always win.”
Dr Vivian said the club was experiencing a lot more success this season.
“Obviously there is a very distinct advantage of having these guys around and we are finding that the results on the scoreboard are really quite amazing,” he said.
Win, lose or draw for the Barossa Rams, Dr Vivian says it’s about sharing the love of rugby.
“I think it’s really to me brought home how much of a community rugby can be,” he said.
“We’ve always talked about rugby being the world game, being the game, they supposedly play in heaven.
“But it’s a game where you can play and you can go anywhere in the world and find a rugby club and you’ve you found a bunch of brothers, and this really brings that home to us.”