Civoniceva Fiji bid aiming for NRL target

Petero Civoniceva‘s campaign for a New South Wales Cup team based in Fiji could well be leading to bigger things.

The former Kangaroos and Fiji Bati test star believes that the project could eventually culminate in a Fiji-based NRL team, or even a combined Pacific Islands NRL franchise.

He has also revealed that Fijian rugby union could be fertile recruiting ground for the Suva-based franchise, who will play out of the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

“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.”

“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 is heading the bid along with Queensland-based businessman Greg Browne, and is looking to tap into the huge rugby league interest in Fiji.

NRL games are broadcast in the country, and receive enthusiastic support from local people.

The NSW Cup was chosen as there is a seven-year waiting list to join the Queensland Cup, in which the PNG Hunters now play.

There is a big Fijian population in Sydney, which also played a part in the decision to play in NSW.

“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.”

Civoniceva also believes that the 200 or so Fijians currently playing rugby union in Europe might well be tempted to swtich codes, with the temptation of possible NRL deals on offer.

He is confident that the sheer depth of rugby talent in Fiji means that finding good players is not going to be a problem.

“That number would be right and it obviously goes to show there would be huge potential for a team being brought into a NSW Cup competition because of the fact that so many players leave the Fiji shores to chase an opportunity overseas,” he said.

“I think the amount of interest this will develop in Fiji, we could get a few rugby union players to cross over because they know this could be a pathway into the NRL.

“If we lose players to clubs in NRL or Super League, we will bring in another batch of players from Fiji.”

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