Naiqama inspired by Civoniceva's hopes
While an outside back isn't typically motivated by the brilliance of a hard-nosed front-rower, Wests Tigers winger Kevin Naiqama is looking to follow in the footsteps of retired Broncos and Panthers legend Petero Civoniceva by promoting rugby league in Fiji.
Civoniceva's experience with the Fijian team at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup helped the now 39-year-old embrace his Fijian culture and Naiqama credited the veteran prop for working tirelessly to help establish a Fijian team in the 2016 NSW Cup competition.
"What Petero's doing now behind the scenes – he's doing so much – it goes unnoticed. It's real encouraging especially someone of his calibre who has done so much in the game," Naiqama told NRL.com.
"He's quietly working away trying to get that NSW Cup team in for next year so he's doing heaps of stuff.
"It's good because when he came away with us he realised how much talent is back in the country and he's trying to give them an opportunity and a pathway to try and fulfil their NRL dream if they want it."
Naiqama is looking forward to doing his own little bit for Fiji when he flies over there in September to visit schools and villages for two weeks, after doing something similar in December last year with NRL's Head of Football Todd Greenberg and Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens
"The NRL have an initiative set up over there where they not only talk about rugby league but also promote healthy living too. They asked me to be an ambassador which is great, but I get more out of it just seeing the kids," Naiqama said.
"It's a real humbling experience going back to Fiji, I love giving back to my country whenever I can and I'm real looking forward to it. Whenever I can help out, I'm happy to because I really do believe Fiji is full of untapped talent.
"You have other boys who play similarly to Aku Uate and that who are just sleeping on their floors in little villages. Hopefully if Petero can get this initiative off the ground it'll be a great way to showcase this talent."
Naiqama went on to add Civoniceva and his motivation to help promote the game's standing in Fijian was a means to lessen rival sports stranglehold on the country.
"The reason why Petero's doing it is because rugby union is the number one sport in Fiji and everyone plays it because the Rugby Sevens gives them an opportunity to get out of the country," Naiqama said.
"But with this NSW Cup side we can bring more players to rugby league. Then we'll definitely see more exciting players in the game once we can get this going."
On the subject of Fijian teammate Apisai Koroisau signing for his third NRL club in three years – something Naiqama has done himself in recent seasons – the 26-year-old said he is proud to see anyone of Fijian heritage play well in the NRL.
"There's blokes like Marika Koroibete, Semi Radradra who have come from Fiji just trying to find a life in football here and have been real success stories," Naiqama said.
"There is so much untapped talent in Fiji and when you see them achieve their goal it's just heart warming to see them play NRL footy week-in, week-out."