Fiji could have their entry into the NSW Cup rubber stamped as early as Friday as they seek to uncover the next generation of Semi Radradras. The bid team, which is being spearheaded by Queensland and Fiji rugby league legend Petero Civoniceva, will make their case to the NSWRL board as they aim to enter the reserve grade competition next year.
The project has been three years in the making and is well advanced with plans to play out of the 15,000-capacity ANZ Stadium in Suva and set up a base at Sigatoka, where the players would eat, sleep and train in a live-in environment.
The consortium earlier in the year hosted NSWRL CEO Dave Todden to present their case and the final hurdle is to prove they have the financial and corporate backing to stand on their own two feet. It was born out of Civoniceva’s experiences playing for the Fijian national side in the 2013 World Cup where he heard first hand from his teammates the difficulty they had finding a pathway to the NRL. “Unless they’re scouted or found at school by an NRL scout, there’s no real pathway into the game,” Civoniceva told AAP. “Someone like Suliasi (Vunivalu), he was in New Zealand and seen there playing rugby union.
“What we want is a direct, local pathway in a professional environment. We’ll have a camp set up. They’ll be fulltime and live out of it.” The Fiji bid model is based on the PNG Hunters, who have enjoyed strong success since entering the Queensland Cup in 2014 and this year finished second on the ladder.
The prize on offer is the deep well of talent that exists in Fiji as officials battle with rugby union for access to the country’s top players. The country has a proud tradition of cultivating talent stretching back to the likes of Noa Nadruku, Lote Tuqiri and Civoniceva. Of late, the likes of Radradra, Marika Koroibete and Melbourne winger and this year’s top try scorer Vunivalu have proven themselves some of the most exciting players in the game.
It has long been identified as a fertile breeding ground for footballers with French rugby clubs establishing academies in the tiny Pacific island of 900,000 in the hope of scouting the best young players.