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Fiji's bid near success

Courier Mail
Friday, November 24, 2017

BRISBANE - They have stormed into the Rugby League's World Cup semi-finals and are now ready to take Australian rugby league by storm.

Fiji's historic bid for entry into the 2019 NSW Intrust Premiership is poised for approval in a significant step towards ultimately fielding an NRL franchise.

On the back of the Bati's stunning world cup success, Fiji's bid team has just about secured the necessary $1.5 million needed to win entry into the second-tier Australian competition.

Fiji powerbrokers believe the entire process could be approved by the end of the year.

All that's left is for the bid to receive final approval from the Fiji National Rugby League.

Once completed, the NSWRL board will consider the bid with the NRL's input. Sources are confident the bid would be successful because the NSWRL is looking for Fiji to replicate the same on-field magic the PNG Hunters have brought to the Queensland Intrust Cup.

Fiji showed a glimpse of their skill with a 4-2 world cup quarter-final win over heavyweights New Zealand on Saturday in Wellington. The $1.5 million annual amount would pay costs for all touring teams, including airfares and accommodation. Fiji bid members have been canvassing sponsorship opportunities in Fiji, the Pacific and Australia. And there is already work being done to find a place to set up a training facility that includes accommodation, a gymnasium and kitchen.

Fiji's bid director, former Test champion Petero Civoniceva, said the three-year wait was just about over.

"This could be the start of something very special. We've pretty much got it nailed down," Civoniceva said.

"I am just awaiting an endorsement from the Fiji national rugby league. I pretty much have endorsements from the NRL, NSWRL and Fiji government.

"We are pretty close now to tidying it all up.

"And it looks like I am pretty close to securing a major sponsor, which is fantastic. Hopefully the performance of Fiji in this World Cup will generate the support we are after.

"We would need about $1.4 million, $1.5 million a year. We have to account for all travel for us and the opposition as well. It is a hefty running cost to put together every year. Hopefully Fiji Rugby League give it their blessing. It can only be a good thing for the local talent in Fiji. The groundwork has been done over the past three years. We have to find a sponsor that can see the value in us. Being a unique team in an Australian sporting competition would be a really good selling point. I think we can look to the PNG Hunters for inspiration. Look what they have done."

The only concern among rugby league hierarchy is over Fiji's ability to secure and maintain long-term financial sustainability.

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