'Mick the Kick' on hand to help Drua usher in new dawn for Fijian rugby
Fijians in even the most remote villages will find their way to a telecast of Friday’s historic Super Rugby Pacific opener, where a former VFL premiership ruckman will be calling the shots.
Mick Byrne couldn’t help but reflect on the latest and boldest chapter of his winding career when landing in Sydney on Thursday, more than 30 years after playing his final game for the Swans.
The Fijian Drua’s arrival in the new-look Super Rugby Pacific represents the 1983 Hawthorn premiership-winner with his first head-coaching role though.
“I’m good but I’m pretty excited and trying to keep a lid on the excitement,” he said.
“Arriving at the airport in Sydney where I grew up, where I was born. It’s a pretty special occasion, so I’ll enjoy that then focus on the job at hand.
“Being in Lennox keeps us away from the hype around the game, but as it draws near and people start to look forward to the game there’s an element of ‘Get ready for it’.”
Based in Lennox Head on the NSW north coast, Byrne’s efforts on and off the field will be a subject of great fascination back in Fiji, where for years the country’s best talent has been picked off by rival top-tier nations.
A successful season for the Drua and fellow newcomers Moana Pacifika, based in New Zealand, could flip the rugby landscape in the region on its head.
Efforts have been made to ensure those in even the most remote Fijian villages can watch Friday’s clash with the NSW Waratahs, while Byrne said they hoped to bring families of the players together to watch games throughout the season.
“It’s a difficult time, we know. You’ve let husbands and brothers and sons leave home and come to join us here,” he said.
“We’re massively grateful you’ve done that and it means a lot to all of us.
“We know you’re missing them, but hopefully being able to watch them tomorrow night brings a little bit of family feeling back into the villages.”
– Murray Wenzel
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