Kaiviti Silktails coach Wes Naiqama has described the inclusion of a Fiji team in the Ron Massey Cup as “massive” and the increased exposure they will receive playing in a NSWRL competition could fast track their development towards a professional Rugby League career.
The Silktails will finally get their chance to show off their skills when they have their first hit-out of the season against St Marys Saints at Mascot Oval on Saturday 27 March.
They made history last season after becoming the first team from Fiji to be admitted to a NSWRL competition but only managed one game before the competition was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic which swept the globe.
The Silktails squad (28 players and five support staff) arrived in Sydney in February for the obligatory 14-day quarantine period and have committed to spending the next seven months away from family and friends to play out the season in the Ron Massey Cup.
It is an enormous sacrifice but Naiqama declared the players were “pumped and ready to go” to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them and hopefully follow in the footsteps of Fijian players Maika Sivo, Viliame Kikau and Mikaele Ravalawa who have all forged successful NRL careers.
“It’s just a clear pathway for these boys to progress for their careers,” Naiqama told nswrl.com.au.
“I think there was frustration in the past and that’s why Petero (Civoniceva) had this vision five or six years ago that these local boys who were playing in the local competition weren’t getting the exposure they’d be able to over here.
“But now, with us playing in this comp, this standard of competition, being exposed to NRL clubs on a weekly basis, if we’re playing well and do well in this competition and the boys are playing well and putting themselves in that window, there could be something good at the end of it for them.”
Naiqama said the players were coping well with homesickness at this stage, with some of them leaving wives and young children behind to play in Australia for the next seven months.
“There’s a lot of excitement and it’s the first time a couple of these boys have travelled but they’re a committed bunch of blokes and we’ve got the one common goal to do well,” he said.
“Obviously they’ve made sacrifices in leaving their families for seven months back home so I’m sure they want to be doing them proud, the club proud and themselves.”