The atmosphere at The University of the South Pacific Laucala Campus (USP) was filled with excitement as staff and students got to rub shoulders with the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua players at the USP & Fijian Drua Drop Goal Challenge.
Ten students were randomly chosen to participate in a Drop Goal Challenge for a chance to win merchandise and tickets to watch the Drua.
This was a way to build on the partnership and network between the University and the Fijian Drua.
The event also had significant involvement between the USP men’s and women’s rugby teams and four Fijian Drua players, including Philip Baselala, Sorovakatini Tuifagalele, Aisea Tuisese, and Isikeli Rabitu.
USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Regional Campuses and Global Engagements, Dr Giulio Masasso Tu’ikolongahau Paunga, acknowledged the partnership forged between the regional institution and the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua. He also thanked the two teams for the engagement and networking opportunity through the Drop Goal Challenge.
“My journey to becoming a Deputy Vice-Chancellor had everything to do with sports, particularly rugby. It was what gave me a scholarship to complete my studies all the way to PhD level and throughout my career,” Dr Paunga said.
“I want to acknowledge our Fijian Drua players and the team; thank you for visiting our Laucala Campus. I encourage our rugby players also to push themselves into academia. While pursuing your professional rugby career, I hope you will find programmes here at USP that will help you in your other endeavours,” Dr Paunga added.
He said, “With the USP being a partner with the Fijian Drua, this gives you the support of 12 member countries, and I want to ensure that we will support you and work to grow our partnership. To our students, I want to assure you that you can also make it to the professional level in your sporting careers while pursuing your studies. I would like to welcome the Fijian Drua to the USP family and know that the Pacific is behind you.”
Fijian Drua Sponsorship and Hospitality Manager Lailanie Burnes acknowledged USP for hosting the team and for putting together an event that allowed their players to meet with some students and staff at the University.
Ms Burnes said, “Thank you, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, for sharing your journey with us and teaching us a little bit of what you’ve gone through and the importance of discipline no matter what challenges you have faced and the importance of having a balance in terms of your work, studies and also your passion for rugby. I know this will be something each of us will take on board and learn, especially for our players and team.”
“On behalf of the Fijian Drua, we are so excited about this partnership, and it is something we value because we understand the importance of education and how far that can help you in life. All of our players were discussing it earlier that we are looking forward to having the USP team come and meet our team to see the learning opportunities in terms of education,” Ms Burnes added.
She said, “We are also looking forward to the Fijian Drua game against Moana Pasifika and what the USP students will be doing at the game as well. So, we are very excited about this new partnership and the journey we are embarking upon together and on behalf of all the Fijian Drua players, the CEO that unfortunately couldn’t make it here today, Vinaka Vakalevu.”
Meanwhile, the USP Fijian Drua Drop Goal Challenge winner, Jordan Gucake, was excited and eager to share the tickets he won from the challenge with his mom and sister.
“I wasn’t interested in registering for this competition at first, but the past few weeks have been filled with short tests, quizzes and assignments, so I knew it would be a great way to let off some steam,” he said.
Gucake added, “I actually came today for a class, and now I have won two tickets to a super rugby game and a signed Drua jersey; I did not expect this to happen at school today, but I am super grateful, and this has been such a great opportunity also to meet players I love to watch.”
“I am a proud Fijian Drua supporter; whether they win or lose, they have supporters all over Fiji and worldwide; we wish you all the best as the team heads into the rest of the season,” he said.