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Partnership does more than just football: Civoniceva

Kaiviti Silktails Chairman Petero Civoniceva said a renewed partnership between PacificAus Sports and the NSWRL was having a ripple effect that ran much deeper than just the Fijian-based Rugby League team.

The Silktails aim was always to give home-grown talent the chance to play in the Australian domestic competitions, which would prepare and propel them towards a life-changing professional Rugby League opportunity.

“Four years ago we started in the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup and now we’re having our first season in Jersey Flegg Cup. The dream is now a reality,” Civoniceva said.

“With the continued help from PacificAus Sports – an initiative of the Australian Government – and NSW Rugby League we can now provide a genuine pathway for our talented Fiji athletes to both the NRL and the NRLW.”

Civoniceva spoke yesterday (Saturday 13 April) at the launch of an extended partnership between the Kaiviti Silktails, PacificAus Sports and the NSWRL. The launch was held before the Jersey Flegg Cup match between the Silktails and Penrith Panthers at Churchill Park, Lautoka.

The initial support from PacificAus Sports began in 2019 but Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, announced yesterday it would continue for another four years.  

Present alongside Civoniceva and the Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Ewen McDonald, was Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, Deputy Prime Minister Viliame Gavoka, Minister for Youth and Sports Jese Saukuru, and NSWRL Chair Paul Conlon.

“NSW Rugby League is very excited to continue this partnership with the Australian Government and the Silktails,” Conlon told the crowd before the game.

“I spoke to a number of the young Silktails players earlier today and impressed upon them the Jersey Flegg Cup is an elite competition of Under-21 players.

“They get great exposure to Rugby League and to all the NRL clubs.”

NSWRL Chairman Paul Conlon. Photos: NSWRL's Tayla Micallef
NSWRL Chairman Paul Conlon. Photos: NSWRL's Tayla Micallef

Civoniceva said the partnership was doing more than just player opportunities; it was also helping create better resources and infrastructure for local Fijian communities.

Evidence of that is the Silktails establishing community high-performance gymnasiums across Fiji for their EDPs (Elite Development Programs).

There are more than 200 men and women training in seven Silktails high-performance gyms located across Fiji. Four are in high schools – another three will be up and running by the end of 2024.

“This allows us to identify local talent and gives them an opportunity to train and develop while staying within their local communities,” Civoniceva said.

“The establishment of the Silktails’ EDP program, particularly in schools, has been hugely successful with improved school attendance and performance among the gains.” 

The Silktails have also begun a Community Youth program, named in honour of their late Football Manager Jacquie Shannon, who died two years ago.

“Her legacy will live on in this program to help our young people, where we make education a priority. Our players are part of that by completing a Certificate IV in youth work last year.

“That allows the players to train and work in the community.

“That’s why the Silktails are so grateful for the support from our sponsors, PacificAus Sports and the NSWRL. We will continue to work hard to nurture and develop Fiji’s best male and female Rugby League talent.”

Already there are results. Civoniceva said in the past four years there had been two NRL debuts, two NRL top-30 contracts, seven Fiji Bati Test caps, with a host of players also progressing to other NSWRL and QRL competitions.

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