Fassifern trio in Fiji contention for World Cup
RUGBY league legend Petero Civoniceva was in the Fassifern Bombers dressing room on Saturday night giving encouragement to three of the side's star players ahead of the 2017 World Cup.
Civoniceva is the Fiji assistant coach and was on hand to support the Bombers and three of their Fijian stars Kaliova Nauqe, Leveni Kurimalawai and Marika Kuriyalavou.
Nauqe has already represented Fiji at the Rugby League World Cup in 2008 and was part of the squad in 2013.
"We are gearing up for the World Cup and we will no doubt put together a strong squad,” Civoniceva said.
"Before that we have the 'battle of the Bati' which is the local residents versus the Australian and New Zealand residents (from Fiji on October 7 in Suva).
"That is always a huge match.
"We have got Kali (Nauqe) pencilled in for the battle of the Bati trial.
"He's a seasoned campaigner who has been there and done it before.
"It would be great for him to have a crack at it and put his best foot forward in that game.”
Civoniceva said Kurimalawai and Kuriyalavou were also in contention to play in the trial.
"They have been outstanding this year and I have filtered that information back to the Fijian selectors and they are definitely in the mix,” he said.
"Obviously it is pretty well known that we have lots of quality outside backs.
"We lost Waqa Blake though from the Penrith Panthers with a serious shoulder injury so he will miss the World Cup.
"So there are opportunities there in the backs.
"The wonderful thing about the battle of the Bati is that it doesn't matter where the boys are playing. They just need to play a good game and hopefully the selectors give them an opportunity.”
Civoniceva said Kurimalawai, who scored 41 tries this year in regular season games and finals, was a joy to watch.
"Leveni is just so dynamic,” he said.
"What he brings to this Fassifern team and to the competition has been amazing.
"The Fiji Rugby Sevens have missed one here. They don't usually miss, but they have with Leveni.
"I know if Leveni was back in Fiji he'd be snapped up quickly.
"It was just good for Fassifern that they snapped him up before anyone else did, and he's had a great season on the back of that.”
Civoniceva was in his Bombers shirt to support the team on Saturday night in their 32-14 loss to Goodna.
He has an abiding affection for the club.
"I was part of helping the Fijians boys here to Fassifern and to the country,” he said.
"The boys have had an amazing season but unfortunately it wasn't their night.
"But it is fantastic they have had the opportunity to come here from Fiji to work in the local community and play for the Bombers.”
Civoniceva is still working on securing a Fijian side in the NSW Cup, in the same way that the PNG Hunters have a side in the Intrust Super Cup.
When the Fiji side gets off the ground it will provide even more opportunities for players from the Pacific nation.
"The hard part is finding corporate support and sponsors because rugby (union) is the dominant sport over there,” Civoniceva said.
"Fiji is not the biggest market in terms of corporate dollars so it has been a tough process, but I am determined that it will happen.
"We are hoping it will in 2018. It is in front of the Fiji government at the moment, and we have had good news that they will assist in supporting the bid.
"It will be exciting to think that potentially we will have an opportunity for guys like Leveni and Marika, and the other Fijian boys, to stay in Fiji and play.
"We have it set up in Fiji and are all ready to go but we just need the corporate support.
"The biggest cost is that we have to cover our own expenses and travelling teams expenses.”