Knights tap into Fiji potential

Over the years there have been plenty of great rugby league players that have hailed from the island nation of Fiji.

The likes of Marika Koroibete, Akuila Uate, Suliasi Vunivalu and Semi Radradra were all born in Fiji, while the Knights’ own Saifiti twins and Korbin Sims have Fijian heritage.

Over 2016 the Club has focused on improving and extending it’s scouting network throughout regional New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand.

During the off-season the next step was taken by Elite Pathways Recruitment Coordinator Alex McKinnon and Player List Manager Troy Pezet as they travelled to Fiji.

“Throughout this year we’ve extended our network throughout Australia by recruiting scouts all over the country,” McKinnon explained.

“We’ve found that Fiji is an area that we probably haven’t tapped into before, and the success of a lot of Fijian players made us think it would be a good area to get into.

“There’s a lot of natural talent over there.”

The pair stayed in Fiji for seven days, working in Nadi, Natalau and Lautoka.

During that time they visited schools, villages and local clubs, building relationships with the aim of unearthing promising players between the ages of 15 and 20.

“It was a good opportunity to go over and have a first look, and build some good relationships,” McKinnon explained.

“Hopefully once our scouts over there identify some kids, we can have a look at them.”

Among other schools, McKinnon and Pezet visited Ba Provincial Free Bird Institute, a rugby league boarding school with 500 students.

Discussions were held with Principal Meli Tora, Head of Sport Alosio Momo and former NRL player Wise Kativerata on the barriers that would have to be overcome for Fijian players to make a successful transition to Australian rugby league competitions.

“One of the things we’re going to focus on is the process of transitioning kids from Fiji to Australia,” McKinnon explained.

“There’s over 300 different islands in Fiji that aren’t familiar with our way of life, so it would probably be quite full on for them going straight from Fiji to Australia.”

With the groundwork now laid, the next step is to create a structure in which young Fijian players can consistently develop into first grade players, and make the Club well placed to unearth potential on a global scale.