Bulikula targets Rugby League World Cup

Don Natabe. Picture: FILE

The Fiji Bulikula will get a chance to play in its first ever Rugby League World Cup in 2025 in France.

The Bulikula have yet to play at a world cup and qualification could see the sport catapult to new heights, like what their sisters in the Fijiana (rugby union) and the Kulas (football) have done recently.

The first step will take place in 2024 when the Bulikula face Tonga and Samoa for qualification.

The two top teams join Australia, the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea as qualifiers from the Asia/Pacific region to France.

Fiji National Rugby League chief executive officer Don Natabe said the announcement by the International Rugby League “is excellent news for all our Women in League and the community behind women’s rugby league”.

“Finally there is something that all female rugby league players can look forward to being a part of. The Women’s RLWC 2025 journey arbitrarily begins today with the confirmation of their participation in the qualifiers and the process,” Natabe said.

“We anticipate a gradual rise in interest for the women’s game.”

He said test matches would be lined up to help give the Bulikula “a real opportunity” to gain qualification.

The Bulikula last played an international against the Australian PM’s XIII in Suva in October 2019.

“While the qualifiers are more than 12 months away (per IRL schedule), FNRL is considering possible test matches in 2023 ahead of preparations for the Nines medal event at the XVII Pacific Games in Honiara,” Natabe said.

“FNRL’s National Women’s Premiership is set to launch next week with three exciting rounds before the grand final match that will be held concurrently with the men’s Vodafone Cup.

“As part of the qualifying process, Fiji has to demonstrate among other things that we have a meaningful domestic calendar from where we select our women teams to the Fiji Bulikula.

“The inauguration of the Women’s Origin from 2020 and the FNRLW this year is a significant step forward for the women’s game and a milestone for the sport.

“The Women’s Premiership is here to stay and we are delighted to have received this news at the eve of IRL’s announcement.”

The news has already brought joy to those involved in women’s rugby league locally.

Eastern Blues women’s head coach Asaeli Saravaki said IRL’s announcement was “an exciting news for women and girls in league at a time when we’ve just revived the women’s XIII competition”.

“This news will pump up interest that is already building up for women’s rugby league,” the former Fiji Bati added.

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