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Fiji Silktails return to NSW rugby league

Take two of the Fiji Kaiviti Silktails entrée into Australian rugby league is about to begin.

It's now been a seven-year wait for the talent of the Pacific island nation to show their wares.

There was a brief glimpse last year – in their supposed debut season last year in the Ron Massey Cup – when the Silktails soundly beat the Windsor Wolves 40-16 at Churchill Park in Lautoka in the opening round.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the NSWRL lower tier competitions for the rest of 2020.

Fast forward to the pending 2021 season and the Silktails are back. They have been in quarantine for the past fortnight in a Sydney CBD hotel and will emerge this week to take up residence in suburban Mascot.

The Silktails' chairman, 51-Test match veteran for both Australia and Fiji, Petero Civoniceva, said the journey had been long but would be worth it.

"It's been a great transition for the boys," Civoniceva told SEN Radio's Andrew Voss Breakfast Show on Tuesday.

Hall of Famer Petero Civoniceva.
Hall of Famer Petero Civoniceva. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"They get released [on Wednesday] so we're looking forward to getting them into some comfortable surroundings.

"Obviously due to COVID we'll be here for the entire season. But there's a lot of excitement, a lot of great energy. I'm really looking forward to the players getting involved in the Ron Massey Cup this year."

CEO Stephen Driscoll has been key in working alongside Civoniceva and the NSWRL to get the Silktails to Sydney and arrange their prolonged stay here.

That season kicks off on March 13 with a bye – to extend the Silktails' wait and anticipation a smidge further.

A squad of 35 players will be under the direction of coach Wes Naiqama, who played 14 Tests for Fiji along with more than 120 NRL games for the Dragons, Knights and Panthers.

"It's a real exciting opportunity to grow the game. In Fiji rugby union is seen as the premier code but in saying that the landscape is definitely starting to change," Civoniceva said.

"Those NRL Fijian stars like Api Korisau, Viliame Kikau and Waqa Blake have really started to inspire boys and girls to take up the game of rugby league.

"So we're seeing a real interest in what we're putting together here (with the Silktails). It's been a long road but I had the opportunity playing for Fiji at the 2013 World Cup to talk to a lot of the locals.

"And they told me the struggles in getting the opportunities to excel. Then the (PNG) Hunters came into the Queensland Cup (in 2014) and that was the catalyst in getting the Silktails concept up.

"So it's great to be finally here. These are the first stepping stones for us to grow the game because there's a huge future for league in Fiji."

Everybody’s heading to Magic Round

There is also an emerging NRL future for Silktails players. Civoniceva said discussions were underway with a NRL club to forge that link with a Canterbury Cup and first-grade side.

"The dream is for some of these players to excel in the NRL. And we've actually got some exciting news coming up in a few weeks' time in becoming a feeder club for one of the NRL teams," he told SEN Radio.

Meantime, several of the Silktails players have been recording their daily quarantine diaries on the team's Facebook and Instagram social media platforms.

The rest of this week the players will resume field training sessions ahead of their first 2021 season 'home' game at Mascot Oval against the Blacktown Workers on Saturday March 20 at 3pm..

 

The Silktails receive funding and support under the 'PacificAus Sports' program run by the Australian Government and designed to expand partnerships with Pacific sports teams and organisations in netball, rugby union, football and rugby league.