Nemani Nadolo pens open letter over Fiji pay debate

Fiji winger Nemani Nadolo. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Fiji winger Nemani Nadolo. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Nemani Nadolo has weighed into the England-Fiji pay debate - but with a twist.

The match-winning former Crusaders winger says it is not Fiji's players who are complaining about match payments.

With the Fijians due to pay Eddie Jones' England at Twickenham this weekend, the international rugby press has been highlighting the massive pay inequity between the two teams. The test match will reportedly generate $NZ17.5 million in revenue but Fiji's players will be paid a mere $NZ700 each while England's stars each receive $NZ38,000.

The England RFU will give its Fiji counterpart $NZ132,000 as a "goodwill gesture".

The disparity has irked many worldwide but Nadolo says it is not Fiji's players who are bleating and they are offended by any suggestion they place money ahead of national honours.

Nadolo, now playing his club rugby for Montepellier in the French Top 14, wrote a heartfelt letter to the Rugby Pass website to explain his view.

"Over the last 48 hours a number of news reports have suggested the players in the Fijian team have made complaints about the allowance we receive to play for our country and to honour our people this weekend when we face England at Twickenham. I want to tell you all that this is simply not true," Nadolo said in his letter.

"It has been a big week for Fijian rugby. Our Olympic Champion Sevens team was honoured by the International Olympic Committee as the Male Team of Rio 2016. Prior to this, the same team was nominated for the World Rugby Team of the Year Award and their coach, Ben Ryan, was nominated for Coach of the Year.

"These awards and nominations make us all very proud to be Fijian and doubly proud to have been given the opportunity to represent our nation - a nation that has never been able to compete on rugby's finance sheet, but can at least strive to be competitive on rugby's great fields.

"It is deeply troubling to us, not to mention disappointing, that the aforementioned reports suggest we would ever put money ahead of honour and respect for the jersey we have been entrusted to wear. If you could spend an hour in our camp you would see that it is love and camaraderie, not money, that binds us together. We are brothers in arms. We play for our families and our people."

Nadalo, who made his Test debut for Fiji against Australia in 2010, said he appreciated many critics of the pay disparity were just trying to help.

"We understand that there is a long way to go in terms of ensuring nations such as ours, and our Pacific neighbours, are resourced adequately enough to provide a pathway for the next generation of players," he wrote.

"We hope this day comes, but our job right now as players is to perform. We are happy to leave the business of the game to the people who have been given that responsibility.

"If we as players were simply in this for the money, we would not be here. We are renowned as a people who are humble and happy and as a playing group we hope we embody those characteristics as much as any other Fijian. We are here because it is a privilege to play for Fiji.

"We appreciate the fact that a number of people have voiced their concerns at the perceived lack of balance in terms of match fees and payments. It is a discussion that needs to continue and we will listen to that conversation with interest. I say again, however, that as players we are responsible only for playing the kind of match this weekend that makes our people proud of us. That is what we are focused on.

"I am a professional rugby player and I love every minute I spend as part of the Fiji squad. it has given me a sense of appreciation for the true values of the game. It has also made me realise how important it is not to take anything for granted. I wanted to write this today as it is what I feel in my heart.

"I am proudly Fijian, and we play for all Fijians."

Ironically, Nadalo may find himself marking a fellow Fijian on the weekend.

Eddie Jones is tipped to start Semesa Rokoduguni on the wing this weekend. Rokodugini, who plays for Bath and qualifies for England via World Rugby's controversial residency rule, is one of two Fijians set to play against their native country with backrower Nathan Hughes primed to make his starting debut as well.

- NZ Herald

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