Fijian footy still at the forefront for Civoniceva
While nations like South Africa, Lebanon, Canada and Spain continue to fight for qualification for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, Fiji is sitting pretty knowing they have automatically carved themselves a place in the upcoming tournament.
But that isn't enough, especially for the face of Fijian football – former Broncos, Panthers, Maroons and Kangaroos prop Petero Civoniceva – as he continues to work behind the scenes to build the bigger picture of rugby league in Fiji.
While building blocks have been laid over the past two World Cups with Fiji making the semi-finals in their last two attempts (52-0 and 64-0 losses to Australia in 2008 and 2013 respectively) Civoniceva is still looking to create legitimate pathways for the Bati including hopes for a Fijian team to be introduced into the NSW Cup in 2017.
"It would be nice to have overnight success but it's going to take a while. We have to build our own development programs in the country first and hopefully then they'll be the cornerstones, the foundations, the building blocks of creating a really strong national team moving forward," Civoniceva told NRL.com.
"We have been buoyed by the success we had in the last World Cup but obviously there's a long way to go if we are to compete with the likes of New Zealanders and the Australians. It's been amazing to see what Samoa did at the past Four Nations so it gives us hope and we're definitely on the right track.
"[The NSW Cup team hope] all looks really positive. We're just waiting I guess for the green light from the NRL and NSWRL. We're working really hard in the background trying to build on our progress and hopefully we'll be pushing to play in the 2017 season."
Imperatively the success of Fijian players in the NRL will act as a cornerstone for the locals to jump across from the favoured rugby union to rugby league.
Players like Eels winger Semi Radradra, Storm powerhouse Marika Koroibete, Knights trio Akuila Uate, Tariq and Korbin Sims and Wests Tigers three-quarter Kevin Naiqama are examples of who Fijian rugby league are relying on to succeed.
"The way the game has grown in Fiji has been phenomenal and the interest of rugby league and players like Semi Radradra and Marika Koroibete has certainly helped that," Civoniceva said.
"I know we're trying to create an opportunity for the local players to come across and hopefully we'll be seeing another Semi or another Marika. That's the most exciting thing about it; they're building those pathways for these players.
"Rugby union is Fiji's number one code but the tide is certainly starting to turn because of the amount of rugby league that's shown on free-to-air TV, and there's interest there from the young players now wanting to participate in rugby league.
"Bringing a NSW Cup side into the country will only lessen Union's stranglehold on the country."