Fiji hope to replicate Tonga‘s rugby league success

Fiji have the potential to follow the lead of Tonga and emerge as another major threat to the traditional rugby league powerhouses.

Fiji centre Brayden Williame, takes on the Toa Samoa defence during their recent rugby league test. Photo: Photosport

That‘s the belief of Bati coach Brandon Costin, who watched his team rout a star-studded Samoa 44-18 in Auckland last Saturday.

Fiji now have the opportunity to lift the Oceania Shield if they defeat Papua New Guinea in their final pool B clash in Christchurch on Saturday.

The triumph would also clinch promotion into the Oceania Cup next year, which will result in Tests against New Zealand and Tonga in pool A.

The Kangaroos won‘t participate because of their tour to Europe.

Victory for Fiji over the Kumuls would complete a historic year for rugby league for the island nation, which began with a 58-14 belting of Lebanon mid-year.

However, the biggest development was confirmation of a Fijian team, the Kaiviti Silktails, to participate in the NSWRL Ron Massey Cup next year.

The aim is for the team to then join the NSW Cup – a feeder competition for NSW- based NRL teams – in 2021, before the World Cup later that year.

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It‘s a pathways system similar to the PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup.

“We‘ve got to create pathways in Fiji that give local players the opportunity to get into NRL systems,” Costin said.

“NRL systems can build players way better than I can.

“That needs to be our focus and get a lot more players playing NRL, so we‘ve got a competitive selection table. Then the sky‘s the limit for Fiji.”

Star Fiji second-rower Viliame Kikau said the development is a huge boost for the game in his native country.

“Back home, everything is rugby union. Fiji Rugby League is working hard to make rugby league big in Fiji as well.

“I reckon next year will be a big year for rugby league in Fiji.”

Kikau is one of a host of NRL stars to hail from Fiji, along with Maika Sivo, Suliasi Vunivalu, Waqa Blake, Jayson Bukuya, and Apisai Koroisau.

And while Kikau was reluctant to predict the Bati could replicate Tonga‘s emergence as a league nation, he said belief is high in their squad.

“I can‘t really gauge how far off we are from those tier-one nations but there‘s one thing I know, when we get on the field, we‘ll take any team on,” he said.

-AAP

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