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Tevita Vukicea in action / Image source: NSWRL

In 2024, the Kaiviti Silktails team will be running onto the field for their first season in Australia’s Jersey Flegg Cup, run by the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL). It’s a move made possible by the Australian Government’s renewed investment in the development of high-performance rugby league in Fiji, delivered in partnership with the NSWRL through PacificAus Sports.

The team’s participation in the under-21s men’s competition will give the next generation of Fijian football talent a chance to gain valuable experience against high-profile competitors.

It will also provide Australian league fans with an opportunity to see more of the Fijian flair they have come to love in stars like Viliame Kikau, who plays for the Canterbury Bulldogs, and Tui Kamikamica, captain of Fiji’s national team, who wears the Melbourne Storm’s jersey.

“Australia and Fiji have a shared love of rugby league which brings our countries and people closer together,” says Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Pat Conroy MP.  “The Australian Government is excited to renew our partnership with the NSWRL through the PacificAus Sports program and to continue to support the Kaiviti Silktails’ participation in elite competition.”

Head coach of the Silktails, Wes Naiqama, knows just how much it means to his young players to be part of the competition in Australia.

“PacificAus Sports has given up-and-coming Fiji Rugby League players so much support,” he says. “They get to represent their families, their village, and Fiji by playing in the Jersey Flegg Cup, so ultimately they can be noticed by NRL clubs.”

Emosi Daubitu in action / Image source: NSWRL

Building pathways to success

The Silktails’ shift to the under-21s competition follows three seasons in the NSWRL’s semi-professional Ron Massey Cup and sharpens the club’s reputation as the place to develop young players.

“It is particularly exciting to see the Silktails playing in our Jersey Flegg Cup competition this year, and the opportunities this presents to create high-performance experiences and pathways to [reserve grade competition] the NSW Cup and NRL in the future,” says Paul Conlon, the NSWRL Chair.

The exposure is already driving career-breakthroughs for some emerging stars, including former Silktails prop Watisoni ‘Soni’ Waqanisaravi. In early April, it was announced that Soni had signed a contract with the Sydney Roosters for the rest of the Jersey Flegg season.

“Ultimately it’s about us trying to get guys into NRL opportunities,” says Silktails Executive Director Stephen Driscoll. “It’s a great chance for [Soni] to be trying to get a NSW Cup spot eventually.”

All eyes on rugby league

All of the Kaiviti Silktails’ matches in this year’s Jersey Flegg competition will be broadcast free-to-air across the Pacific on PacificAus TV.

“This broadcast deal is not just a win for the Silktails as a club but a massive win for our code in Fiji,” says Silktails chairman Petero Civoniceva. “On behalf of everyone at the Kaiviti Silktails, a big Vinaka Vakalevu to all of the key stakeholders that have put this landmark deal together.”

Fans keen to see the speed and strength of the players up close can get to the Silktails’ home games at Churchill Park in Lautoka and Prince Charles Park in Nadi.  

Kaiviti Silktails / Image source: NSWRL
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