Al Ain Amblers upbeat despite exodus

Matt Jones - Editor 23:36 10/09/2016
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Emosi Ratuvecanaua (r) is one of several players who have left Amblers this summer.

Amblers have been ravaged in recent months, with nearly their entire contingent of talented Fijians departing the Garden City for greener pastures elsewhere.

Niko Volavola and Sakiusa Naisau  joined the Henry Paul revolution at Jebel Ali Dragons. Esekaia Dranibota, Emosi Ratuvecanaua and Siri Laladidi have all been snapped up by Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Teenage talent Jerry Kilikinasau, meanwhile, left to join double winners Dubai Exiles.

Amblers also saw head coach Andrew Rouvi step down to be replaced by South African Niekie van Blerk. Despite seeing last season’s squad torn apart, Emmett says Amblers must move on.

“We’re all passionate about rugby and sport and we want these guys to do well and enjoy their rugby, so I wish them all the best,” the Australian said of the departures.

“We’re changing a few things ourselves and we’re moving forward. We’re getting on with things.”

Van Blerk, the new man at the helm, embarked on a recruitment drive while back home in South Africa over the summer, which has reaped some reward.

Jerry Kilicanasau, making his Dubai Exiles debut on Friday night, is one of a slew of names to leave Al Ain

Compatriots Brandan Rieck and Erwin Ambrose will arrive at the club just after Eid, while Fijian duo Sekonaia Kalou and Tevita Ratuva have also been acquired. Club captain Kini Natuna has also been retained.

“Niekie took the package to them when he was home in the summer and I’ve Skyped with them and told them about the rugby side, so we’re happy and positive,” added Emmett, who feels emerging from a season of struggle in 2015/16 will have helped the club.

Al Ain toiled, having made the step up to the Premiership. They won just only once all season, against Muscat in January, losing 17 of their 18 encounters across the West Asia Championship and UAE Premiership.

Their cause has been blighted further by the loss of several big names, but Emmett is dwelling on the positives.

“People have got to move on and we wish them all the best,” he said.

“We feel we’ve grown from last year, our first year in the Premiership. We soldiered our way through.

“We missed one game last season where we couldn’t get numbers for and there were lengthy discussions within the club and committee about staying or leaving the Premiership.

“Ultimately things don’t happen overnight. I spoke with chairmen at other clubs. With Exiles it took them a number of years to get where they are today, the force of UAE rugby.

“Our community is very different to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, it’s an older community where people have families. It will take us a different strategy to build our rugby but everybody’s positive about it.

“We’ve got a new head coach, we’ve restructured our whole set-up, especially for our senior men, and we’ve had some good numbers at training and our trial match against Dubai Hurricanes at the weekend, and everyone’s bonding well.

“We had 40 at the trial match at the weekend, 50 at training last week, so numbers are good. We’re holding our breath we can get visas sorted for guys coming in to replace our departed Fijian stars and it might be a veteran sides running on the first weekend against Saracens.”

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