It’s not your typical family holiday but for Wyong Roos trainer Shane Selby and his family, there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
“As a father, that’s exposing my kids to something they’d never see – I get a hell of a lot out of that,” Selby said.
After a family vacation to Fiji in 2013, Selby was encouraged to go back in June 2014 by Roos Fijian player Eloni Vunakece and help grow rugby league in remote areas and villages of the country with his wife Kylie, their seven-year-old daughter Matilda and five-year-old son Chayse.
Fully self funded, Selby returned with his family to Fiji again this year in October, along with Vunakece and Wyong assistant coach Ian Bourke and manager Matt Lavin – and the game is growing leaps and bounds.
Apart from household NRL names such as Akuila Uate and Marika Koroibete in Australia, rugby league continues to rapidly rise in popularity in Fiji.
Expanding from 18 players to 40 within the space of a year, the Fijian side – the Coastline Roos – are benefiting from the assistance that the Wyong Roos generously provide.
“The level of football for the Coastline Roos’ skillset has definitely improved,” Selby said. “Some things I implemented and taught them last year, they were actually doing in game scenarios now.”
It proved to be greatly successful as the Coastline Roos, won their respective competition, beating out nine rival teams, and are now promoted to the top division.
“It helps they (Coastline Roos) get exposure through Wyong, and NSWRL and NRL had a push on Fijian sport as a whole,” Selby said. “Also with a NSW Cup Fiji bid team, there’s a lot more belief they can get exposure in Australia through a different game other than union.
“There’s now a pathway to rugby league in Fiji.”
It’s not just the men who are enjoying rugby league but the pressure is mounting for a female competition in Fiji with a strong demand and sponsorship push to establish an eight-team competition and under 18s division.
Beloved in Fiji, Selby’s visits are such a success that the Coastline Roos are thirsty to learn more and will be visiting first hand to gain valuable exposure to training and medical preparation.
“It’s got to a point that early next year the Coastline Roos will come to Australia for two weeks with Wyong sponsoring their visas and spend two weeks staying in Wyong Roos-owned apartments on the Central Coast. They will play in the local Central Coast Nines tournament and also enter the Cabramatta Nines tournament while training alongside the Wyong Roos’ VB NSW Cup team during the pre-season.”
It’s a cause Selby truly believes in.
But what drives Selby and his family to spread their love of rugby league in Fiji every year?
“I’m just an old rugby league hack that wants to give back to the game,” Selby said. “People there are so appreciative. They take us in; we’re like a family now. It’s amazing; the local players take us in to their villages and invite us for dinner and then take us out at night.
“These are the kind of things you can’t put a price on. My kids playing in local villages with other kids. Firstly, for me as a rugby league fan, these people are enjoying the game, developing the players and people. Secondly, to give my wife, my kids and myself an experience you can’t put a price on, it’s amazing.
“It’s hard to put into words what I get back because it really is humbling.”
And Selby is determined to continue his rugby league mission – self funded or not – with he and Bourke vowing to return mid season in 2016.
“Every time we go there it grows and we’re more and more accepted as family. It’s picking up now, the kids are speaking and myself are speaking a bit more fluent Fijian which is pretty funny to hear.
“We’ll be back bigger and better next year.”