With the announcement of the 47-member extended squad last week, the Fiji National Rugby League (FNRL) CEO Don Natabe is now pushing forward with plans to attend the Rugby League World Cup in October 2021.
The squad includes 14 resident Fijian players including other contracted players currently in the UK, NZ and Australian NRL and other international rugby league competitions. Interestingly, included are former Cronulla Shark Jayson Bukuya and former Newcastle Knights winger Akuila Uate, despite signaling their retirement earlier this year.
The FNRL is optimistic with the Fiji Bati being placed in Pool B with Australia, Italy and Scotland. The FNRL also announced that in July 2021, the final squad members will be revealed, with preparations to travel to Australia to meet with the Australian based Bati, then travel to the RLWC.
The other option is for the Australian-based Bati to travel to Fiji for a week prior to travelling to the UK.
Yesterday, Fiji news outlets announced Penrith Panthers prop and seasoned Fiji Bati rep Bill Kikau will potentially captain the side into the RLWC.
What is needed for the side is a bilingual captain who will be able to bridge the communication between resident players and those born overseas. This is a hill that the Bati will need to overcome to ensure a flawless team dynamic by the 2021 World Cup. Coupled with this is good leadership skills.
Could seasoned Fiji Bati and Melbourne Storm prop Tui Kamikamica also fit the captaincy role? In February 2020, the Melbourne Storm announced Kamikamica’s co-captaincy role at the Perth Nines.
Watching an articulate interview with Kamikamica reinforces the skilful mentoring and development coach Craig Bellamy has embedded in the Storm’s players, in grooming Fijian players such as Marika Koroibete, Suliasi Vunivalu and Isaac Lumelume.
Nevertheless, this is a wise move by the FNRL as someone is needed at the helm that speaks fluent Fijian given the increasing number of Fiji Bati residents joining the team.
The FNRL board push, led by Royal Fiji Military Forces Commander Viliame Naupoto, is pro-Fiji-based players, adding value to the side that was previously dominated by Fijians born overseas.
Under the helm and leadership of current Fiji Bati national coach Joe Dakuitoga, this side is looking to be exciting and vibrant with players chosen from the local Vodafone competition and from the Kaiviti Silktails, a team currently in preparation for the 2021 Ron Massey Cup, a NSW rugby league competition.
The franchise is owned by former Brisbane Broncos and Australian Kangaroos rep Petero Civoniceva and business owner Stephen Driscoll.
The Fiji Bati team is one to watch, as they strategically configure the next few months, with surprise announcements to the 2021 World Cup side.
Some big names included in the list are Kevin Naiqama, Taane Milne, Semi Valemei, Maika Sivo, Kane Evans, Apisai Koroisau, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Tariq Sims, Korbin Sims, D’Rhys Miller, Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Marcelo Montoya, Mikaele Ravalawa, Brendon Wakeham, Isaac Lumelume and Waqa Blake.