NEWS that Fiji is currently bidding to take part in the 2016 NSW Cup, headed by the one and only Petero Civoniceva, coupled with the current success of the Papua New Guinea Hunters in their first season in the Queensland Cup, poses an interesting question.
How long will it be until a Pacific island nation is included in Australia’s National Rugby League?
None of the four major codes has branched out into the Pacific at national level. Internationally it is a different story, but whichever code takes the initiative will be paid back tenfold.
If the NRL takes a chance and brings teams in from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa then their attendance at games will skyrocket not to mention merchandise sales.
With a bit of smart thinking, rugby league could take the mantle as the number one sport to play in the Pacific. Pacific islands’ involvement in the NRL could come in a few different ways.
A combined Pacific team made up of the best islands’ players with each nation having a team in the two second-tier competitions is one option.
Other models are all five teams entering in the NRL or a mixture of relocated teams from the current roster and a couple of new teams.
Many people will argue that the Pacific Islands may not be stable enough to host a full time team, and in the past that may have been the defining point. There is a risk in everything, but when everything is weighed up this direction is definitely worth a shot.
The first step will be to allow a Suva based team from Fiji to enter the NSW Cup in 2016 and then go from there. Their inclusion is a real no-brainer.
However long it takes, I think this needs to be the future of the NRL, especially if it is serious about addressing the attendance problems it currently has.