26 Jun 2019

Sport: Fiji Rugby League to enter NSW Cup in 2021

1:45 pm on 26 June 2019

Fiji Rugby League have finally been given the green light to enter a team in the New South Wales Cup.

A local team will compete in the lower tier Ron Massey Cup competition next year before transitioning to the New South Wales Cup in 2021.

Penioni Tagituimua impressed in the Fiji Residents team's three test series against their Tongan counterparts.

The Fiji Residents team, who swept their Tongan counterparts in a three-match series earlier this month, could form the basis of a New South Wales Cup side. Photo: Fiji National Rugby League

The bid team, led by former Bati captain Petero Civoniceva, has spent almost five years trying to get a Fijian team into the state premiership, which is one level below the NRL.

Fiji Bati coach Brandon Costin said it was an exciting time for the game locally.

"It has taken a lot of time and effort from Petero... and there's a few of us now who are just sort of jumping on at the back-end," he said.

"But I think everyone in Fiji Rugby League is so grateful to the work Petero has done because this provides a pathway now for local Fijians to represent (the) Bati."

"We had one local player playing on the weekend (against Lebanon, Penioni Tagituimua). He went on at halfback and hooker and performed really well so once we've got our own Ron Massey Cup team and we build up into a New South Wales Cup team we're going to get a more natural progression of athlete into NRL systems.

"We're going to get these players training full-time in Fiji, they're going to get coached by the Fiji Bati coach so it bears well for those players based in Fiji to get selected into the Bati and that's the goal of Fiji National Rugby League, to get more local players representing at that international stage."

The Fiji Bati in Sydney

Brandon Costin would love to see more local players in the Fiji Bati. Photo: Facebook / Fiji Bati

Costin said the plan was to use Fiji's match against the Australian Prime Minister's 13 in October as an opportunity for local players to press their selection claims.

"We can have some trials before the PM's 13 which are going to fit in nicely with being able to select the very best players that are in Fiji and these are the players that will represent us in the New South Wales Cup competition next year," he said.

"So there will be no Bati players playing against Australia, the PM's 13, simply because this game for the last 15-20 years has been about developing the nation, the game within the nation."

The Australian government announced financial support back in January and will cover the costs of travel for Australian-based teams to play in Fiji.

It's hoped the Fiji side will be able to mirror the success of the Papua New Guinea Hunters, who have been competing in the Queensland Cup since 2014.

Fiji's Petero Civoniceva

Petero Civoniceva has been the driving force behind Fiji's bid to enter the New South Wales Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

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