BARLA Lions Tour (Fiji 2018) - Blog Nine

BARLA Lions Tour (Fiji 2018) - Blog Nine

We are on our last day in Nadi and forgive me for saying I feel quite emotional. 

As a group we have achieved so much and I have made friends for life. I think this was the philosophy when BARLA came into being in 1973 and began touring, and it's how it feels to me right now.

To a lot of these guys I was that chap with the video camera that turned up to their training sessions, but living, breathing and being amongst the squad has been a great experience. I am pleased to be going home but feel there is a lot of development left to do here.

The test match last night was an eye-opener. Sometimes video pictures don't tell the tale and by the accounts of the lads, this was one of the dirtiest games they had been involved in with numerous players receiving bite marks and being spat at. How they didn't react, I will never know and as a result they have been superb ambassadors here for BARLA, their counties and their clubs.

Like everyone I was gutted and concerned when Lee Postlethwaite from Millom was dumped unceremoniously in a dangerous tackle that left him motionless on the floor. If such an attack had happened on the street, prison sentences would have been handed out! The physio staff we have on tour did some amazing work in caring for Lee until an ambulance arrived and like in 1970s and 80s England, it was driven by a guy purely employed as an ambulance driver, no sign of a paramedic! Off Lee went to hospital and the squad was genuinely moved when he rejoined us later. A huge cheer when up when he walked in through the door and the team rallied round in support.

Sadly for Lee, his tour has ended in serious injury and he requires a shoulder operation after breaking his clavicle in two places. Thankfully he has family in Brisbane who can help the recouperation process but I bet when we get to Australia, no-one will leave until we know he is in good hands. That is just how it is on tour. 

Back to the game briefly and I sincerely hope the behaviour we witnessed is not indicative of Fijian Rugby League, particularly with them courting Australia strongly. It is certainly not indicative of what we have found on tour, with lots of people showing gratitude and genuine interest, love and respect.

From a personal point of view, this tour has been a challenge, particularly getting something we take for granted in England - a team listing for match report!

Also, despite being told on more than one occasion that the sport is growing quickly, Union is king, although to be fair, the place does eat, sleep, repeat rugby and there are some great natural athletes, so with a bit more organisation and assistance, there is scope for League in Fiji to work. 

The Fiji I take away with me is a place of real contrasts from the mega-rich to the very poor, well built and fancy apartments right through to shanty villages; from chiefs, ceremony, and hierarchy to paradise beaches, sun, rain and mega humidity (thank god for air conditioning units).

I have become resident kava expert on tour. There is no doubting the stuff is an acquired taste but I've enjoyed sampling culture and as those of you following Twitter and Facebook will know, I have posted so much content during the early hours. I think the kava has helped me to relax.

I've posted elsewhere that it has been a pleasure, a privilege and a real highlight for me to be out here, representing my country and BARLA. I hope that I have done everyone proud both here and back home.

See you in Manchester!