Petero Civoniceva and Fiji National Rugby League's dream to field a professional team in the New South Wales Rugby League's premier competition received a huge boost today following the Australian Government's announcement of landmark support for Rugby League in the Pacific.
Australian Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison, made the announcement in Suva, Fiji, this morning pledging financial support for the current bid by a team from Fiji to compete in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW in 2020; as well as supporting NRL pre-season trial matches in the Pacific, in February 2020, 2021 and 2022.
"I am happy to announce that we will be helping fund Fiji's pathway into the New South Wales Rugby League's Intrust Super Premiership," The Prime Minister said.
"It's been a dream of Petero's and many others to field a Fijian team in one of our most beloved competitions.
"I will be tuning in to watch ... especially when they play the Newtown Jets."
NSWRL General Manager of Football, Barrie-Jon Mather, said the decision was a great vote of confidence in the game's future in the Pacific and their hopes to play second tier Rugby League. .
"The announcement of support by the Australian Government substantially assists the bid team, led by Petero Civoniceva, and puts them a step closer to realising their dream of having a Fijian team play in our elite competition," Mather said.
Minister for Sport Bridget McKenzie said the announcement recognises the power of sport to bring people and communities together to build stronger ties.
"Rugby League is incredibly popular in the Pacific Islands and if we can translate that into greater grassroots participation, we know that it will lead to more active and healthier participants," Minister McKenzie said.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said sport has been a longstanding element of Australia's engagement in the Pacific.
"These announcements are part of the Australian Government's commitment to the Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages Program which will deliver $40 million in grants over five years to support the development of sport throughout the Pacific," Minister Payne said.
"Sport has been a longstanding element of our engagement in the Pacific. This new program recognises the role and reach of sport as a major connection between Pacific and Australian people and communities."
The NRL Head of Government and Community Relations, Mr Jaymes Boland-Rudder said today's announcement was a fantastic endorsement of the positive impact Rugby League has both on and off the field throughout the Pacific.
"We thank the Prime Minister, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for generously supporting and raising the profile of the lasting impact Rugby League is making for women, children and men throughout the Pacific," Boland-Rudder said.
"The NRL trial matches, alongside the assistance provided towards funding the proposed Fijian-based team in the NSWRL's Intrust Super Premiership, will have a profound impact in inspiring our proud and passionate Pacific neighbours and their communities."