Petero Civoniceva says Fiji team in NSW Cup will lead to NRL bid
July 18, 2014 - 1:23PM
Petero Civoniceva believes the admission of a Fiji team to the NSW Cup competition will be a stepping stone to a Pacific islands side joining the NRL.
Civoniceva, who captained Fiji to the semi-final of last year's World Cup in Britain, has been in talks with NSW Rugby League and the NRL about a Suva-based team joining the second-tier NSW Cup competition in 2016.
The team, which will have a training base in Suva and play out of the city's ANZ Stadium, will comprise of players eligible for Bati selection who reside in Fiji.
Civoniceva expects a number of rugby union stars to switch codes for the opportunity to showcase their talents to NRL clubs.
Like Papua New Guinea, who this year entered a team in the Queensland Cup, it is hoped that Fiji – or even a combined Pasifika side – will gain entry to the NRL.
"Most definitely that is a goal," Civoniceva said.
"Everyone is prepared to take small steps first but no doubt one day into the future it would be wonderful if the island nations were represented in the NRL.
"What we are proposing is to have a fully professional team preparing and playing out of Fiji, and obviously commuting every second week to Sydney.
"This is such a huge step for Fiji sport so we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but if we can create this stepping stone who knows where it will lead."
Civoniceva has been working on the proposal with Queensland businessman Greg Browne since visiting Fiji with the Bati squad after the World Cup and seeing how the success of the team, and players such as Semi Radradra, Sisa Waqa, Apisai Koroisau, Akuila Uate and Marika Koroibete in the NRL, had boosted interest in the game.
"The way we were bought home and the way the team was followed goes to show there is a real love for the game, so the next step was to give the local players an opportunity to be exposed to a higher standard of competition," Civoniceva said.
The decision was made to play in the NSW Cup as the team would have to wait for up to seven years to enter the Queensland Cup, there is a big Fijian population in Sydney and most of the other sides are known to fans in Fiji as they have the same names and logos of NRL clubs.
"The fact that we now get every game of NRL broadcast in Fiji is the reason the game of rugby league has just gone through the roof in terms of interest and participation," Civoniceva said.
"We are talking with the NRL about setting up community-based programs to use rugby league to push health and social messages into schools and also to promote participation in rugby league for boys and girls."
This team could bring a lot of hope and happiness to my home town of Suva. That what's exciting me more then being able to see Fiji play. This could be a much needed stepping stone and that little extra wmotivation that young kids and teens in the area, not to mention the whole of Fiji, need to accomplish their dream, achieve great things, wear their hearts on their sleeve and make both Fiji and all their family proud. Health over their isn't the best either, so again, this is another great step in the direction to improve all Fijians health.
I really wanna visit Fiji sometime soon ... some of the nicest and funniest people I've met in my life have been from there.