The Fijian Rugby League World Cup squad were honoured at Rochdale Town Hall on Tuesday night as over 350 guests attended a Civic Reception hosted by the Mayor, Councillor Peter Rush. The achievements of Rochdale Hornets, winners of last month’s Championship One Play Off final were also celebrated.
The international side, which includes some of the best players in the world, got a standing ovation as they joined a host of local dignitaries and distinguished guests in the Great Hall.
The Mayor opened proceedings, talking about the rich history between Rochdale and Fiji and said it is a pleasure to welcome the Fijian national team to the town: “We are very proud of our Fijian community and the contribution they have made to Rochdale and Rugby League over many years. I am very much looking forward to the game, in what has already been a memorable year for Rugby League, with Rochdale Hornets winning a trophy last month.”
Fijian High Commissioner Mr Ratu Solo Maba thanked Rochdale for their warm welcome before a presentation of the ‘I qaloqalovi’ - a traditional Fijian ceremony. Graham Starkey, from Rochdale Hornets Ex-Players association spoke about his love of Fiji and said they have contributed a great deal to Rochdale over the years: “Many thousands of local people will be at the game supporting Fiji … Rochdale is behind you all the way.”
Council Leader Colin Lambert said the borough is proud to be hosting the world cup and thanked everyone for their hard work in bringing the tournament to the borough:
“It has been a pleasure to meet the Fijian team and welcome our colleagues from Rochdale Hornets. Excitement is really building ahead of the Rugby League World Cup. It’s the biggest international team sport competition to be held in the UK this year and I can’t wait for it to kick off. Sport is an important part of our community and the Hornets success and the Rugby League World Cup 2013 can only encourage more people to participate in sport. Best wishes to both teams in what I am sure will be a successful tournament.”
Paul Ormerod, President of Rochdale Hornets said he appreciated the support:
“It is great news to welcome such a magnificent side to Rochdale, and fabulous that the world cup is finally upon us.” The ceremony also included traditional Fijian dancing by members of the Fijian Association and concluded with a surprise vocal performance by the Fijian squad who burst into song on stage and performed a rousing rendition of Qo Na noqu masu (This is my prayer).
Fiji play Ireland at Spotland Stadium at 8pm on Monday 28 October, and Fiji are Rochdale’s adopted nation for the duration of the tournament which kicks off 2 days after the opening ceremony at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
A limited number of tickets starting at £10 (£5 concessions) are still available online via the RLWC website or by phoning 0844 847 2013. Tickets for all games in the tournament - including Rochdale’s are also available in person from Spotland Stadium box office. The game is being staged in partnership with Denehurst Park (Rochdale) Limited, Rochdale Borough Council, Link4Life, Hornets Rugby League, Rochdale AFC and AGMA (The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities).
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