Bati future in safe hands

The wonderful world of international rugby league, beyond the impending Four Nations tournament, is a growing beast.

Over the past weekend, Serbia sailed past Hungary, Ireland took down France, Greece prevailed over Bosnia-Herzegovina, Scotland won the battle of the United Kingdom by downing Wales and Fiji beat Lebanon for the Hayne-Mannah Cup at Remondis Stadium.

Fiji's win in particular holds a special place in the Bati contingent's hearts as it marks their final game with Newcastle Knights-bound coach Rick Stone at the helm.

Stone, who led the Fijians to the semi finals of last year's World Cup before missing out on Four Nations qualification when Samoa beat them in the Pacific Test in May, admitted it's tough to say goodbye to the nation that is now placed fifth in the latest RLIF rankings.

Bati assistant coach Petero Civoniceva's stirring speech about Stone's influence on the Fijian team following their win over Lebanon certainly hit home with the Knights mentor.

"It's always nice to leave on good terms, no doubt. The past couple of years have been terrific working with Fiji," Stone told NRL.com. 

"You get to that point where you put a lot of time and effort into something and you'd like to think you left the place in better shape than when you took over. Hopefully I've done that.

"There is such an array of Fiji talent around in the NRL and lower-tier competitions as well, which is terrific. Fiji, I think if they manage things, will be in safe hands and should be competitive again next time the World Cup comes around."

Before Civoniceva spoke of his appreciation in the sheds, the former Bati captain stressed his admiration for Stone and all he's done for Fijian rugby league to NRL.com.

"Stoney's fantastic and he's played such a great part in this team for quite a number of years and I think everyone is proud of him with him taking over the reins of the Knights," Civoniceva said.

"All our best wishes go to him and at the same time we're all grateful for what he's done for Fijian rugby league."

While Stone has signed on as Newcastle head coach for the next two seasons, it doesn't necessarily mean the end of his affiliation with the Fijian team considering the enjoyable and rewarding experiences accumulated in his time as coach over the past three years. 

"I won't be severing ties with Fiji," Stone said.

"I'm keen to still help when I can there and be some sort of consultant to hopefully help them get into the NSW Cup and help the national team. There is always a place for Fijian rugby league in my heart now."

Fiji is yet to name a replacement for Stone as they look to begin building for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, which they have automatically qualified for.