Fiji team in NSW Cup close to reality
Petero Civoniceva's dream of a Fiji team playing in the NSW Cup from next year is set to become reality after the bid was officially endorsed by the Fiji National Rugby League.
Civoniceva, who captained the Bati at the 2013 World Cup, believes his three-year campaign for a Fiji team in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW will finally come to fruition in 2019 after the FNRL wrote to the NSWRL to advise they had formally endorsed the bid at a recent board meeting.
"The endorsement of the FNRL was the missing piece in the jigsaw so now that we have got that it allows us to start to set up for 2019," Civoniceva told NRL.com.
"We are obviously now going to make a major announcement and will then get on our way towards meeting all the criteria set by the NSWRL to have a team ready for the 2019 season."
The backing of the FNRL was the final hurdle for Civoniceva to secure support and funding from the government and sponsors in Fiji for the team.
The former Brisbane Broncos prop has been in discussions with sponsors to help provide the $1.5 million needed to cover operating costs, including flights and accommodation for visiting NSW Cup clubs in Fiji.
"To have the endorsement of the FNRL, there is obviously benefits for companies that sponsor the bid in Fiji and that is why it was important," he said.
"Now we have that it allows us to go to the sponsors we have been speaking to for some time to let them know we have ticked every box in terms of getting those endorsements in place."
A team in the NSW Cup would be a massive boost to the game in Fiji, which has qualified for the semi-finals of the past three World Cups in 2008, 2013 and 2017.
With more than 25 Fijian players in the NRL last season there is no shortage of talent in the island nation and the Bati scored the country's greatest rugby league victory when they defeated New Zealand 4-2 in November's World Cup quarter final at Wellington.
The success of the PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup has provided a blue-print for the Fiji bid and the NSWRL is keen to replicate that model in 2019 provided Civoniceva can satisfy conditions about finances, organisational structure and the quality of their playing and training facilities.
"There are obviously financial matters that need to be adhered to and we have to have those ticked off by the NSWRL, and then once we do that we can get underway," he said.
"Providing we can prove ourselves financially viable and sustainable we will be ready to go in 2019."