The chance for a contract with the NRL is just one of the spoils on offer for members of the Fijian Kaiviti Silktails rugby league team during their tour of Australia, with the ADF providing support.
The 28-man squad has set up home in Sydney to take part in the 2021 semi-professional Ron Massey Cup.
The Australian Defence Force Rugby League (ADFRL) is providing training and professional mentoring for the Fijian team while they are in Sydney.
During a training session at Victoria Barracks, president of the ADFRL Brigadier Dave Hafner said it was a great opportunity for the players to do some drills and fitness activities.
“We have a strong relationship with Fiji. We’ve seen that recently through the support the Fijian military gave to the bushfires here last year, and subsequently our support to Fiji in the aftermath of Cyclone Yasa,” he said.
“This program, along with the wider engagement throughout the Pacific islands nations, is a continuation of those activities – we have a strong bond through sport, and rugby league is popular in both countries.
Training carried out by the ADFRL in partnership with the NRL will focus on professional skill development and consolidation of the important relationship Australia has with Fiji.
Head coach of the Kaiviti Silktails, Wes Naiqama, said it was exciting for the team to be in Australia.
“Almost half the team have never been in an aeroplane before, let alone left Fiji – so that’s been a massive culture shock,” Mr Naiqama said.
“The boys showed a lot of promise during our first game against the Mascot Jets, last week. It was great preparation for our first competition game this weekend.
“We really appreciate the support from the ADF. We’ve trying to grow the game back home for not only the players but we’re also trying to upskill the coaches, sports trainers and referees as well.”
The Silktails are partly funded and supported by the Australian Government under a Pacific sports program and will play their first home game on March 20.
Mr Naiqama said he was confident his squad would do well in the Ron Massey Cup competition.
“Hopefully some of the boys will come out of this competition being rewarded with an NRL contract – that would be absolutely fantastic," he said.
Following on from the training in Sydney, the ADFRL will carry out a week-long virtual training program with up to 95 members of the Fijian Military Forces and Fiji National Rugby league Officials from March 22–25.
The program will be run out of Kaiviti Silktails Centre of Excellence in Lautoka, Fiji, with instructors virtually delivering the program from Townsville and Sydney.