Scholarships awarded in move to boost game in Pacific

Otago Polytechnic is doing its bit for the advancement of high-performance sport in the Pacific Islands.

The  polytechnic has awarded scholarships to two backroom members of the Tongan national rugby squad in which it hopes will give the sport a boost in the islands.

Scholarships have been awarded to Tongan lead strength and conditioning coach Semisi Fonua and Tongan analyst Joh Fifita.

Fonua will study for a masters of professional practice while Fifita will study for a graduate diploma in applied science with a specialty in analysis.

They will be carrying out distant learning programmes with the  polytechnic. Fonua’s course will take 18 months and Fifita will be studying for a year.

Fijian sevens strength and conditioning coach Naca Cawanibuka is in the process of completing his masters of professional practice through the Otago Polytechnic although he has not received a scholarship.

Although most of the study will be by distance  Fifita and Fonua will still have to come to Dunedin for a couple of weeks during their study  to meet tutors.  An exact starting date for the duo has yet to be decided as they search to complete all the funding for the courses.

Otago Polytechnic school of adventure senior lecturer Mat Blair said he believed it was the first time these type of high-performance sport distance programmes and scholarships  had linked the polytechnic and Pacific Island coaches.

"These scholarships will promote applied high-performance sporting culture of Pacific Island people living in the islands," Blair said.

"Pacific Island people play a notable role in global sport, for example, players in American Football and rugby teams such as the All Blacks. Improving on island education in this area will only enhance opportunities locally and globally for their people."

Blair has been involved in various Pacific Island sides training programmes over the past few years and worked in strength and conditioning with the Tongan World Cup campaign in 2011 and 2015.

The Tonga team has been playing in Europe and finished its tour with a bang, beating Italy 19-17 in Padova last weekend.

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