A brief conversation at the annual Petero Civoniceva Medal presentation night has led to the Fiji Kava Kaiviti Silktails and the Burleigh Bears agreeing to face each other in a 2022 pre-season trial match.
The game is scheduled for the Bears’ home ground, Pizzey Park on the Gold Coast on February 19.
It will give the Fijian squad much-needed game time in the build-up to their third Ron Massey Cup season in the NSWRL.
The Civoniceva Medal is given each year to the Queensland Rugby League’s Cup player of the year.
Former Maroons great Civoniceva was also captain of the Fiji Bati when current Burleigh mentor Rick Stone was head coach of the Pacific nation’s rugby league team.
The connections between the two clubs go even deeper. Kaiviti Silktails coach Wes Naiqama played in the centres under Stone and alongside Civoniceva when the Fijians beat Samoa in the quarter-finals of the 2013 World Cup, before falling to Australia in the semis.
“Wes played for me at Newcastle at the time, and he was a senior player on that 2013 World Cup side,” Stone told nswrl.com.
“And there’s that relationship with Petero as well. I bumped into him at the Petero Civoniceva Medal awards night and we talked about the possibility of getting a game between our two sides.
“The Fijian boys had a camp up here on the Gold Coast last season, so they’ve made some ties with the area already. So, we saw it as a good chance to get involved and host a game.
“Any time you bring the Fijians to town, it will be colourful and exciting, as they have a good culture.”
The Kaiviti Silktails are known Australia-wide for performing traditional songs either before or after games as a way of celebration and thanks.
“I’m keen to showcase that culture to my players here at the Bears,” Stone said.
“It is a very moving experience to be a part of, or to witness.”
The Bears trial is another way the Kaiviti Silktails are generating a pathway for their players to participate in elite level rugby league in Australia.
“When we came back from the World Cup one of the recommendations from our success there was to try and get a team in either NSW Cup or Queensland’s Cup competition,” Stone, who was Fiji Bati coach from 2012-2015, said.
“It’s taken a few years, a lot of effort and time but it’s happened – it’s a reality and it’s a terrific initiative.
“I always thought giving young Fijian players a chance to come to Australia and play is a real attraction for those promising footballers back in Fiji.”
Fiji Kava Kaiviti Silktails executive director Steve Driscoll said the trial game was an ideal fit.
“Bringing the match up to Queensland is important because it’s Petero’s home state, so to start the pre-season up here is a nice tie-in with that and with Rick, who was probably our most successful national coach,” Driscoll said.
“He took Fiji to the 2013 World Cup semi-finals – a real milestone for our nation.
“We’ve also got a large Fiji community in the Brisbane-Gold Coast areas, so we want to showcase the match to them as well as a celebration of their heritage and culture as well.”
This Kaiviti Silktails Gold Coast pre-season tour is being supported by the City of Gold Coast under the Sports Attraction Program. The Silktails’ participation in the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup is proudly supported by the Australian Government through PacificAus Sports.