30 Jan 2019

Sport: Fiji rugby league team on track to join NSW Cup in 2020

9:57 am on 30 January 2019

The former Fiji Bati rugby league captain Petero Civoniceva says the support of the Australian Government is a huge boost in their push to enter a team in the New South Wales Intrust Super Premiership.

Fiji's Petero Civoniceva

Petero Civoniceva is a former Fiji Bati captain. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the extension of the Pacific Sports Partnership programme earlier this month to include Fiji, with a high-performance focus on netball and rugby league.

The government will contribute funding towards the Fijian bid to compete in the New South Wales Cup, which is one level below the National Rugby League.

Former Brisbane Broncos, Queensland and Kangaroos star Petero Civoniceva is leading Fiji's bid team and said a locally based team would help expose the country's rugby league talent to top level competition.

"We've wanted to try to create a development pathway for young players in Fiji to play in an Australian rugby league competition," he said.

"We see that as a stepping stone and that was identified probably because of the lack of opportunity for local players to play in a high level competition."

The Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league team have been playing in Queensland's Intrust Super Premiership competition since 2014.

The Hunters have qualified for the finals series in three of their five seasons to date and won their inaugural title in 2017.

Fiji have been trying for more than five years to enter an equivalent in the New South Wales competition and Petero Civoniceva said it remained a work in progress.

"It's taken a number of years of lobbying to gain the interest of New South Wales Rugby League," he said.

"We looked at the PNG Hunters model and definitely knew that that was something that we could replicate. It's just a matter of trying to work with our in-country governing body of rugby league in Fiji, FNRL, and understanding the relationship and garnering the support of the NRL (in Australia) as well."

The PNG Hunters celebrate winning the Intrust Super Cup.

The PNG Hunters celebrate winning the Intrust Super Cup. Photo: Courtesy of www.qrl.com.au

"It was quite a lengthy process - the last sort of six months we've worked really hard on that relationship to the point where we're all working together and we're all committed to seeing this through," said Civoniceva.

"We haven't sort of been informed of the final details but all indications are from the Australian government their support would be a three year level of support which would play for the travel expenses of the Australian teams in and out of Fiji, funding the remainder of our expenses and that would then qualify us for the 2020 competition."

Petero Civoniceva said the ultimate goal is to see Fijian players get selected into the National Rugby League teams in Australia.