Children are practising on the sidelines, supporters are cheering on their favourite teams and the young athletes are fully focused. The AIMS Games is well underway with thousands of athletes from around New Zealand and the Pacific gathering in Tauranga to compete against other schoolchildren. Reporter Zoe Hunter chats with the only Pacific Island team represented in the rugby sevens competition. The coach and players of the Fijian team open up about their journey to New Zealand for the first time, what they hope to achieve while here, and how they did in their first match.
"We want to make history."
Those are the words of the only Pacific Island team represented in the rugby sevens as part of the 2019 AIMS Games.
The team of 12 boys are in New Zealand for the first time to compete in the annual sporting tournament which is now under way in Tauranga.
More than 11,500 athletes from around New Zealand and the Pacific are taking part in 23 different sports during the six-day event.
The rugby sevens team from Gospel Primary School in Suva, Fiji, are here to make their dreams become reality.
Assistant captain Seru Sinumila said the team had already made history.
"We are the first school from Fiji to come, that is history."
His dream was to play rugby for the All Blacks one day.
"But my mum says I can be even better than them," he joked.
Coach Jesoni Naivalutoki said the boys hoped to gain rugby scholarships while in New Zealand.
"So I have told them to play hard. I am so proud of them. It is a big experience for them and their future in rugby."
The team arrived in New Zealand on September 5 and had made a winning first impression in the intermediate-aged sporting tournament on day one.
The Fijian boys won their first game against Huntly's Kimihia School 37-5 at Blake Park yesterday. Team manager Tomi Finau said the team had expressed interest in coming to the games last year and were invited in February this year.
Finau said the team's parents had played a big part in getting the boys here for the first time, including making financial contributions.
"We have no sponsorship. We are very grateful. It is a big help."
He hoped to see Fiji in the annual games every year.
Rugby Sevens tournament director Ian Spraggon said the Fijian boys were expected to do well this year.
Spraggon said come Wednesday all of the teams will know where they stand and will be playing off for a spot in the finals.
"From Wednesday it is game on," he said.
Tournament director Vicki Semple was grateful the tournament had grown to be able to include teams from as far as the Pacific Islands.
"Sport is a vehicle for life. Sport unites people from all cultures. Sport is a universal language."
Semple said with more than 11,500 athletes from 369 schools, the 2019 AIMS Games was the biggest yet.
The event was set to pump about $3 million into the local economy.
"The thing I really love is Tauranga really embraces the AIMS Games," she said.
"The community has a real sense of ownership of the games. We have a real community pride around it."
However, this year's event had come under extra national attention after three teams pulled out due to measles fears.
Semple said organisers had been vigilant in taking the necessary steps to spread awareness about measles.
Records collected of every athlete showed about 800 children had not been immunised. Semple said some had since been vaccinated.
"But a list of currently unvaccinated children, sorted by sporting code, has been sent to team managers so unvaccinated children could be monitored for symptoms."
Semple said information about measles had been shared through the tournament's social media. Quarantine tents with St John staff had also been set up.
"We're taking the matter very seriously and we have been absolutely diligent in our communication with schools."
Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation manager of general practice services Phil Back said pop-up clinics would be implemented as soon as they had confirmed enough vaccine stock to cater for demand.
"We understand the level of concern in the community about the measles outbreak, and we have vaccinators and venues at the ready.
"But until we have the vaccines we can't proceed."