Fiji on track for NSW Cup inclusion
Fiji's bid to have a side in the NSW Intrust Super Premiership has received a huge boost after New South Wales Rugby League CEO David Trodden confirmed that the NSWRL were "very committed" to making their dreams a reality.
However, he conceded it would be unlikely for them join the 12-team Intrust Super Premiership in 2017 due to ongoing commercial considerations.
The Fiji NSW Cup Bid Twitter handle has over 12,000 followers and has regularly promoted the ever-growing relationship between the Pacific nation and rugby league.
Trodden said the NSWRL had also received an expression of interest from the South Island of New Zealand to join the Intrust Super Premiership, but it appears Fiji is the front-runner to be the next expansion side as part of a revamped second-tier pathway program.
In welcome news, NRL Head of Football Brian Canavan announced on Thursday a plan to increase the number of teams in the ISP from 12 to 16 in 2022, with Fiji mentioned as one of the proposed newcomers.
"They would be a wonderful addition to our competition," Trodden said when asked about the Fijian bid.
"We have been working with Fiji for about two years now, but working through the commercial considerations of the whole involvement has taken us a bit longer than what we anticipated.
"We were hopeful that they might have been in the competition next year, but I think that's appearing less likely now than we had hoped.
"But certainly we're talking to Brian regularly about making sure that that happens in 2018 when this whole thing is ready to be launched."
Fiji's bid has drawn comparisons to Papua New Guinea's inclusion in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup.
The Hunters joined the competition in 2014 and took just one year to announce themselves as competition heavyweights after going on a 17-game winning streak to finish just one point behind minor premiers the Townsville Blackhawks.
Their inclusion has had a profound impact on the rugby league-mad nation, with their home games played in front of huge crowds at the recently-refurbished National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.
The national side has also reaped the benefit of having a State Cup side, and were victorious over Fiji earlier this year with a stirring 24-22 win during Rep Round.
Trodden said the NSWRL and Fijian bid team had based their funding model on the one used by the Hunters, and hoped it would achieve similar results if and when they joined the ISP.
"That's an important discussion because the funding consideration we've been having with them is that they've been self-funding their participation in the competition," he said.
"The model that we've been working on is the model that PNG have with the participation in the Queensland competition the Intrust Super Cup, and that's a self-funded model, and that's the model we've been working with at the moment."