The feeling is back at Ed's
I woke up to the shrill of the umpire's whistle riding over the cacophony of Saturday-morning sounds –– a radio tuned loud, someone hammering somewhere, different size vehicles passing along Grantham Road and a combination of human noises.
I realised that the basketball tournament was on and went with Ilivasi to check it out before going to work.
We sat on the footpath and watched the activities.
The sound of feet in canvas shoes running on the cement court and the ball hitting the rim and backboard are sounds peculiar to Raiwaqa but they had not been heard for a long time.
Spectators sat around the court, not many yet, but I soon saw them, people I know, coming to the court to watch the games
The Bryce players sat on benches which looked familiar to me under a tent.
Someone told me Mala Ravai had brought the benches and tent from the Marist club and no wonder.
The benches are native to Lambert Hall, no other place they have those kind of benches.
The Bulldogs team –– rookies of Raiwaqa basketball –– and their entourage spread a mat and had their juice container with them at one end of the court.
Near them, a girl was selling roti and curry.
I saw William Dyer and and Mala umpiring, the USP team arrive and Te, who was sitting beside me, said "the colonel is here".
I looked and saw my class mate Ioane Naivalurua and went to shake his hands.
It had been a long time.
"Au wilika tiko nomu la'ki kana ika i Tavuki," he said.
I said something and he said "Vabulabulataki mada na ka qo."
I knew what he meant –– reviving basketball in Raiwaqa and Fiji.
Ioane is president of Fiji Basketball Association.
He introduced youth development officer Mark Seccombe to some people at the court.
Strange how time slips away. It seemed just like yesterday when I heard the sounds I heard on Saturday but it has been some years.
Basketball had returned with the lost feeling to Raiwaqa. I watched two games until duty called.
The tournament marked the revival of basketball in the sport's heartland.
In between breaks the kids took over the court until they were chased away for two teams to play.
It was like a family outing, like when the inter-lane was in competition.
For this tournament, 11 teams entered including Bryce Warriors, Bryceland, Knicks, Davui Magicks, Boston, Jazz, Bulldogs, USP, Freshmen and Idaman. McPacers of Raiwai pulled out.
To the surprise of many in Raiwaqa, two Bryce Street teams met in the final.
It was a new experience for Davui and Boston to be watching two other teams in the final.
Davui and Boston have always dominated basketball in Raiwaqa and Suva for that matter. The domains of basketball in Raiwaqa was Black House and the immediate vicinity of Davui Lane and across the road, down Browning Street, Spowart and Singh Lane which is the Boston stronghold.
But yesterday's all-Bryce final was 10 years in the making.
I remember a decade ago when basketball competition started in Raiwaqa, my neighbour Master Pete used to collect kids of Bryce Street on Saturday mornings for clinics at the old Ed's court.
When the inter-lane started, I used to get fed-up *hearing from Max that the Bryce teams almost won.
The Bryce team was always on the receiving end from Davui and Boston but it started to change as the years passed. By then, the small kids were big boys and their understanding and knowledge of the game grew in bounds.
The late Kinijoji Sokosoko arrived on the scene and helped Master Pete with the Bryce Street basketball uprising.
Master Pete it was who told the other teams in Raiwaqa to watch out for Bryce in 10 years.
And it has come to pass.
The Warriors are a cosmopolitan side and include reps such as Peni Sokosoko, Saki Rokodi and Ioane Naivalurua Junior.
They have experience from playing together for the Fiji Under-20 and the senior Fiji team.
The other boys of Bryce Street, lower Bryce to be precise, make up Bryceland and students are in the Bryce Knicks. Bryceland beat Idaman, a team from Namadi –– Idaman is Namadi spelt backward –– and Davui in their pool
In the semi-finals, they met USP which had national reps Laisiasa Puamau, David Whippy, former Raiwaqa player Mesu Rasova and was boosted by the FBA youth development officer.
USP lost to Bryceland for the second time in two weeks. The other week they lost in Raiwai when Bryceland.
On Saturday it was a painful half a basket loss –– 28-29. For their effort, the Warriors won $200 and Bryceland $100.
Teams which are interested in joining the Raiwaqa inter-lane competition are to send a rep to Solo Doko's place tomorrow for a meeting at 7.30pm. The plan is to have the Tuvili Cinavi trophy challenge besides the competition.
The interest shown by parents and people of Raiwaqa is an indication that it will be back to the glory days or even more.
Now, the youths running the show have experience from the last time, when they were kids.
There is a change in attitude and there is a seriousness among the players.
One of the Bryce players turned up on Saturday morning hungover and with a bottle of beer and was not allowed to play.
He spent the whole day being a spectator.
Nicky said after a long time something good came to Raiwaqa.
Everyone was looking forward to the tournament and the start of basketball competition. "I got a call at 6am, Serf rang to tell me about the tournament and I said o so," said Tim about his brother calling at that time.
The tournament was success, they all said, and they all felt good.
I joined the Bryceland team at their after-match and then finished off with the Warriors, one house way.
"At least, they have something to look forward to instead of drinking grog every Friday night," I overheard Aggie Sokosoko tell a friend.
The sudden activation of the body took its toll on many players.
Lorima Vula came straight from the court and hit the bed.
The general consensus was that they must train and get fit if they have to be competitive.
"Even in this unfit state, we reached the final. Imagine if we are fit," said Nicky.
I know most of the boys who play in the various teams in Raiwaqa and how much better they will become if they pump a dose of discipline and fitness into their systems.
Otherwise, they have all the ingredients to be class basketball players.
In Raiwaqa, you do not have to teach a kid how to play basketball.
They are born with it.
Where else, do you see children and youths bouncing a ball and going for the basket?
They have the advantage of a full-size court and equipment to go with it.
As for many of the players, they grew up together on the same side of the street, they see each other everyday, kavuru together, grog together, wash down together at weekend and live near each other.
As such, some of them have struck up a good understanding of each other and you do not need much to mould them into a good combination.
The other thing is that outside teams want to play against Raiwaqa teams to experience the "other side of basketball".
Outside players do not get an elbow in the face when they play in other associations, only when they meet Raiwaqa teams.
The boys recalled some of the mischief they got into to get into the national gymnasium when it was the main basketball venue years ago.
They played cat and mouse with security officers and Suva and Fiji basketball officials.
They cut the fence or climb over it to get in and when they were caught, they were told to go back the way they came in.
But all that is in the past. The future is now at their doorstep –– Ed's court and with the revival plans and support from parents and Raiwaqa people, there is a lot of promise for the future of the game.
Naivalurua said he would see that the game was revived in Suva.
Raiwai is in full swing with the junior development program led by Kelevi Serukalou.
All in all, things look good for basketball in the years to come, if Raiwaqa's plans go according to plan.
They have to make it work and will.
I can see the eagerness in their eyes.
They all say it has been a long time and they just want to play basketball again. Well, everything is in their hands.