Local NRL product's crusade to help Fiji
More than a month after it was struck, Fiji is still recovering from Tropical Cyclone Winston which killed more than 40 people and indiscriminately destroyed infrastructure across the Pacific nation.
The category five cyclone was one of the worst natural disasters to hit the proud rugby league nation, and now, led by Cronulla Sharks player Junior Roqica, the NRL is lending a helping hand.
Working with other Fijian players, as well as some of the biggest names in the game, Roqica has been selling rugby league memorabilia that he hopes will help the island nation recover from the natural disaster.
"On behalf of myself and some of the Fiji Bati boys, I thought I'd reach out to some of the boys in the other NRL teams that I've played with or played against. The boys were more than nice to be able to give me some gear," Roqica told NRL.com after his side's 30-2 win over the Dragons on Sunday.
"I got a pair of signed boots form Aaron Woods. Kane Evans from the Roosters donated two Roosters jerseys. Chase Stanley gave a signed Bulldogs jersey. Kevin Naiqama gave a Tigers jersey. Korbin Sims donated a Newcastle jersey. Apisai Koroisau donated a Manly jersey.
"All the jerseys are up on eBay at the moment. Obviously we have a Sharks jersey up there as well. The bids have been going up and up and up over the last couple of days. It's been overwhelming, but it's been awesome."
Like many nations in the region, Fijians love their footy and Roqica is overwhelmed that the game is doing its bit to support those in desperate need.
"All the Pacific nations love their sport. For players like myself and the boys across other teams, to give back to our country goes a long way," the 25-year-old said.
"People within the islands tend to notice and they tend to put the footy players on a pedestal and they hold them in high regards, and we [as players] all love it."
The Fijian World Cup representative is working with local aid agencies to ensure Fiji can recover from Winston's path of destruction, and is hoping to raise as much money as possible in the coming days.
"I'm just going to do my best. Whatever I raise, I raise. I'm in links with the Red Cross over in Fiji, so whatever I make will go to them. I'll send the proceeds over and they'll distribute them however they see fit," he said.
"This was my first kind of eBay sale. At the moment I'm at about $3500. If I can look to get $4000 or $5000 that'd be awesome, because everything counts."
Roqica's family back home was affected by the freak weather event, but thankfully was spared any loss of life.
"My mother and father's family were pretty fortunate. We didn't lose any lives. There was a bit of damage to property on both sides, but nothing too serious," the Sharks forward said.
"But in general, Fiji was hit pretty hard, so I hope my proceeds can go a long way to help any families that have had serious damage. Everyone knows Fiji as the smiling country. It's going to be a long rebuilding phase."
The online auction has garnered plenty of support from within the rugby league community, but those wanting to buy any merchandise should get in quick, with the auction closing on March 16.
"Every dollar counts, so whatever people can donate will go a long way."