23 Jun 2020

Fiji to revive women's rugby league competition

11:42 am on 23 June 2020

Fiji National Rugby League is finalising plans to stage a women's domestic competition for the first time in three years.

The Fiji Bulikula squad to face Papua New Guinea.

The Fiji Bulikula squad to face Papua New Guinea. Photo: Facebook/Fiji Bati

Six regional teams competed back in 2017 but the FNRL's Acting Chief Executive Officer Don Natabe was hopeful a new competition will boost playing numbers.

"We have 25 clubs in Fiji but there's a perception - we're trying to get more women to participate in male-dominated sports and I think that's one of the challenges as well, apart from funding," he said.

"...We're looking at six teams in the eastern region of Fiji and the other six teams in the western region but that initial plan has been affected and we're looking at what model could be viable for the women's competition, especially with funding setbacks.

"We're really looking at that inter-zone option or maybe play a State of Origin Cup for the women."

The Fiji women's rugby league team, the Bulikula, made their international debut during last year's Pacific Test in Sydney, thrashing the Papua New Guinea Orchids 28-0.

Two weeks later Fiji won a gold medal in the inaugural women's rugby league nines competition at the Pacific Games.

The Fiji Bulikula and the PNG Orchids huddle after their first ever meeting which Fiji won 28-0

The Fiji Bulikula and the PNG Orchids huddle after their first ever meeting which Fiji won 28-0 Photo: Facebook / PNG Orchids

Despite being overlooked for a place at next year's Women's Rugby League World Cup, Don Natabe believes the FNRL can still capitalise on their international success.

"We have a good presence in terms of women who are playing in Australian competitions and the NRL women's competition," he said.

"For us to build from last year's achievement, we're looking at organising more international games and I know we're not in the World Cup for the women's category but we have expressed our interest in joining the Emerging Nations World Championship."

"...We're also exploring the option of playing an international test and want to continue to contribute to the international rankings for Fiji women."

With live sporting activities now free to resume in Fiji, it's hoped a remodelled women's competition will be ready to kick off in a months time.

"We were looking at an option pre Covid-19 to have the women in league rounds run parallel to the men's competition, but that has been affected...we've really had to look at what viable model we can get back on for the women," Natabe said.

"We've remodelled the competition and we've come up with a few concepts for the men and women's competition and we will plan a compulsory four

weeks pre-competition to allow teams to go back into training."

The governing body is also remaining optimistic the Fiji Bati and Bulikula might be able to play some international footy before the year is out.

"I know the team at the Asia Pacific Rugby League are currently working together with the NRL to see if there's a possibility of having that international window at the end of the NRL season, but otherwise the prospects for 2021 are better than that of having tests this year."