By Alipate Pareti
Watching the Fijian Drua at home is a powerful experience, and Drua Coach Mick Byrne has said: “We have the best rugby fans in the world here in Fiji.”
There is possibly no greater fan than Frederrick Raiwalui, the ground announcer for all the Fijian Drua home games. “I love this game. I love being a master of ceremony. So these two loves of mine have come together in this one perfect gig,” he says.
Known as the voice of the Fijian Drua, Raiwalui provides a wildly unique experience when it’s game time, all culminating towards that famous cheer, “TOSO DRUA TOSO!”
“I let [the crowd] know that every time the boys have the ball inside the 22m line of the opposition, we’re gonna start [cheering]. Every time the boys make a big tackle everybody yells BOOM! And when the boys score a try, they just lose their minds and go nuts!”
The Drua tend to ride on the loud energy dispensed by their beloved home crowd. It is a wonderful sight to witness.
“Even if I was not the ground announcer, I’d probably be the loudest person in the crowd. It just helps that [the organisers] have given me a mic and a few amplifiers so that I can transfer that energy to everyone in the stadium,” Raiwalui says.
To overcome the challenge of quieter crowds in earlier matches, Raiwalui began ‘briefing’ spectators before the teams run onto the field.
“I tell the crowd exactly what is expected of them and what they need to do to help the boys.”
He believes there is a noticeable difference between Lautoka and Suva fans.
“The Western fans were a bit more reserved than the Suva fans, which was surprising – because during the first game against the Crusaders, they were really vocal and we expected that because it was against the Crusaders!
“But in the Blues and Moana game, I felt I had to do more work to get the crowd amped up rather than in Suva. The crowd in Suva really made my work easy.”
Raiwalui is looking forward to what the future holds.
“I can’t wait, especially after this season; we’ve had just an amazing experience hosting six home matches and winning 5 out of the 6…so I’m quite confident going into next season, we can bring a quarterfinal here to Fiji.”
The Fijian Drua wins include the Crusaders and Moana Pasifika in Lautoka, and the Melbourne Rebels, Wellington Hurricanes and Queensland Reds in Suva – a great accomplishment for just their second year in the Super Rugby Pacific.
To the Fijian Drua fans, Raiwalui has some advice: “Just don’t be shy. Sometimes, we just cheer a little bit then we become reserved again. Don’t just watch rugby, come and cheer for the team.”
Frederrick Raiwalui hails from Dravuwalu village in Kadavu, with maternal links to Welagi in Taveuni.