Fiji is more than just a destination for Bati players, it is a state of mind.
Under new coach Brandon Costin, the Fiji NRL is creating an app to give members of the Bati squad a daily dose of Fiji culture when they are in Australia with their NRL clubs.
Costin, who is based in Fiji, credits the success of the Bati in Tests he has overseen this year against Lebanon and Samoa to the culture and environment in camp and wants the players to experience that each day, via the app.
“It’s an amazing experience when you are around Fijians,” Costin said ahead of Saturday’s Oceania Cup Test against Papua New Guinea, which will decide which nation joins New Zealand and Tonga in Pool A of next year’s tournament.
“Every time I go to training we sing a hymn, we say a prayer every day, so I think what happens with the NRL boys when they come into camp is that they get a real blast of Fiji heritage.
"It takes them back and they love it, but when they come out of camp they are back into the normal everyday grind.
“Because I experience Fiji every day we are really trying to make sure everyone in our squad has a connection to Fiji every single day going forward. We are just trying to build a really tight culture that comes from first and most important thing in Fiji, God, and then the Bati.”
The team chaplain will use the app to keep the players connected with their religion and Costin will provide playing related information.
“One of the goals here is to make sure we are not just going event to event to event,” Costin said.
“I have got a contract that is going to see me past the 2021 World Cup so that is our focus.
"We are not event orientated, we are World Cup orientated.
“When you start an NRL season you obviously want to win the grand final from day one but you have to practice every day at training and every game, everything that is required to be a grand final winner. We are trying to do the same thing.”
Costin’s philosophy has been successful, with the Bati stunning the more fancied Samoa 44-18 in their opening Oceania Cup Test at Eden Park last Saturday.
Rookie Canterbury halfback Brandon Wakeham, St George Illawarra hooker Joe Lovodua and former South Sydney and Canberra fullback Siti Moceidreke were outstanding and Costin revealed they had played regularly together at junior level for the Australian Fiji Rugby League.
Bulldogs SG Ball coach Joey Saukuru is Costin’s assistant and he is involved in training, developing and identifying talent in Australia for the Bati.
“Those guys played together when they were 14, 15 and 16 with the AFRL so they grew up together in the AFRL system and graduated to the Bati,” Costin said.
Costin, who will coach the Kaiviti Silktails team in the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup, took over the Bati role this year after meeting a broad range of skills and experience required for the job.
The much-travelled former centre, who played 226 matches for the Rabbitohs, Magpies, Roosters and Raiders as well as Huddersfield and Bradford and one Test for the USA, was coaching his junior club, Coffs Harbour Comets, before moving to Fiji to take up the job.
Costin had previously lived in Samoa and helped deliver the NRL Outreach Program for 13 months.
“Really, they were just looking for a jack of all trades, almost a master of none. Apparently I fit the bill,” he joked.
“They were looking for someone who could develop coaches, develop players, develop junior league, have a strength and conditioning background, be able to develop referees.
“Because it was so specific on what was required and I had done NRL development work on the north coast of NSW and then worked in Samoa I was able to tick a lot of boxes on the prerequisite to be the coach.
“They also wanted someone that had a level of NRL experience, I got that at the Roosters in 2011 and I did six years coaching at Queensland Cup level so I had the coaching background as well as ticking the other boxes.”
After just two games in charge of Fiji, Costin has the Bati heading in the right direction to improve on their semi-final finish at the previous three World Cups and they still have the likes of Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, Tariq and Korbin Sims, Api Koroisau and Jason Bukuya who could come into the squad.
“The more we can get our players together the better it is going to be,” Costin said. “I am very fortunate that my job means I am based in Fiji and for the Bati to be strong we need more players playing NRL.
“We have to create pathways in Fiji that give local players more opportunities to get into the NRL systems. That needs to be our focus so we get a lot more players playing NRL and if we can do that I think the sky is the limit for Fiji.”