Solomon Islands Rugby

For the first time in 12 years I visited the Solomon Islands, the birth country of my father. As a child, we used to live there and relocated between NZ and the Solomons on a few occasions. Since transitioning into my teens, this was only the second time I have travelled back. I thought I would start by providing a bit of history of the Solomon Islands.

Kwaibala Rugby Club

Solomon Islands Rugby

The population is estimated around 600,000 and there are nine Provinces within the country. I come from Malaita Province which recently celebrated Malaita Day (This holds some significance to the rest of my story). Whilst my immediate family and I resided in NZ, a civil war broke out in the Solomons and endured between 1998-2003. This had a huge impact on the tourism industry and affected numerous Solomon Islanders with much blood shed and ethnic hatred. Besides the ethnic tensions I believe one of the main contributors to the quick build up of this civil war was the high rate of unemployment but that is for another story. A collective military mission was made up of neighbouring countries including Australia, NZ, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. This group was called Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands or RAMSI. Since 2003 the unrest has been resolved but like I mentioned earlier, the tourism industry has never fully recovered. Recently we held Solomon Island Independence Day celebrations at the Wanneroo Rugby Club which was a great success and the Solomon Island Western Australian Community (SIWAC) is very grateful to the club for providing the venue. I think our small community consists of about 60 people. Students and families relocated alike. We do a very good job of sticking together and assisting our fellow SIs with the transition to Perth. We are currently fundraising to send some of our students to the Interstate games held in Toowoomba later this year.

Anyway back to my trip. After spending a few days in the capital Honiara, I caught a boat over to Auki, Malaita. This is where I met up with family in Kwaibala; in particular my cousin Fransis Saemalar. He goes by his second name Saemalar or Sae for short. The last time I met Sae was when he was an eight year old. Now he is in his early 20s and with the help of a few others started up the Kwaibala Rugby Club. It was very fortunate that my stay coincided with the last weekend of a four week, 7 aside tournament. So I managed to drag myself out of holiday mode and went to some of their trainings. These guys shared a training field with a rival club Auki where they just trained at opposite ends in harmony with each other. Many of the guys trained in bare feet because they needed to save their boots for game day. This is also keeping in mind they trained five times a week Mon-Fri. No complaints there. Come game day, I decided I would play even with a sprained AC joint suffered from the previous game in Perth after running into Kane Koteka from Wests. I shared a pair of boots with another size 11ish fellow and away we went. Our team Kwaibala made the semi-final for the first time and came up against Ambu (the other village where I come from). We went down to Ambu who went on and won the tournament and in doing so claimed victory for the whole series. I am so fortunate that I was able to take part in this occasion. I laced up the boots in the Solomon Islands and the phrase “Doing it for the love of the game” has reached a new level for me. These boys do it for the love of the game.

Upon my return, the rest of Wanneroo Rugby Club have really jumped on board and we have unofficially adopted Kwaibala Rugby Club as our little brother club. We have sent a set of second hand rugby jerseys and we have collected a number of boots and other equipment from our players, ready to be sent over. The Roo Dog jerseys were presented to the club on Malaita Day after rushing them over with DHL. I have spoken to Perth Bayswater and they are very keen to adopt the Ambu club and set up something similar. This will be finalised in the next few weeks. I am still collecting boots, so if you have any please let me know and if you don’t have any and would like to contribute to the postage cost give me a shout. Every bit helps when you do it for the love of the game.

Sylvo VP