The power of education and sport is something the Kaiviti Silktails are witnessing first-hand at a Fijian high school, where a donation of gym equipment has seen a 100% attendance rate for classes.
The success of the initiative has not only seen five young male students qualify for the Silktails elite development program (EDP), but club chairman and former NRL star Petero Civoniceva hopes it will clear the path for female players to also begin their Rugby League careers.
The Kaiviti Silktails organised gym equipment to be set up at Sigatoka Methodist College, a co-ed school about 70km east of Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu, run by principal Timaima Katonivualiku.
Both rugby union and Rugby League students at the school can use the gym on the condition they attend classes first.
“Sigatoka has a proud history of rugby so to be able to engage with their school and help in this way has turned out to be such a positive for us,” Civoniceva said.
“But now on top of that to hear the impact it’s had on the students, we’re proud of that too.
“Hopefully it’s the start of a successful relationship of helping students reach heights both on and off the field – creating a good culture and environment for both their sport and studies.”
Civoniceva is not shy in saying he hopes Rugby League can get a foothold into the Sigatoka talent pool as well – and that’s for both genders.
“Our next step as we continue to evolve the Silktails program we’re looking at growing a girls pathway within the rugby league communities there,” he said.
Principal Timaima Katonivualiku said it had given students a new lease on life.
“They not only want to get their bodies fitter, they are growing their minds as well,” she said.
“We were also able to see a lot of teamwork and team spirit amongst the boys. We participated in the Under 19s grade for the first time and we reached the national quarter-finals.
“The majority of our boys are 17 and 18 years old. The youngest is 16 and they are all playing in the Under 19s grade. The gym has really boosted their preparation and motivates them to do better.
“The inclusion of the Kaiviti Silktails EDP gym really motivates our teachers and students. We do not have a playground and we are so blessed to have this EDP program in our school.”
The success has prompted the Silktails to commit to another shipment of gym equipment in January to set up gymnasiums in four more schools in Tailevu, Ra, and Vanua Levu.
It all dovetails nicely with the Kaiviti Silktails new train-and-study initiative for the Ron Massey Cup season in 2022 with both players and staff completing part-time courses as part of the club’s “No Study, No Play” policy.
New Silktails captain for next year, prop Apakuki Tavodi (pictured), has just graduated with his Bachelor of Agriculture from Suva’s University of the South Pacific (USP).
“Ra High School is the former school of our skipper Apakuki and he’s obviously someone that’s well-respected in the community so it will be a real honour to put a gym into his school,” Civoniceva said.
Melbourne Storm prop Tui Kamikamica is from Taveuni Island, north-east of Viti Levu, and Civoniceva said the outer islands were areas the Silktails were looking at introducing programs too.
Tavodi joins teammates, five-eighth/halfback Mosese Qionimacawa (Bachelor in Electrical Engineering, University of the South Pacific) and outside back Timoci Bola (Bachelor of Commerce, Fiji National University) as players with degrees.
The Silktails’ participation in the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup is proudly supported by the Australian Government through PacificAus Sports.