Fijian dream team set for NSW Cup
A SIMPLE conversation between two rugby league diehards is set to change the football landscape in Fiji forever.
If, as expected, the Pacific nation fields a team in the NSW Cup next year, you can trace it back to a chat between the father of former Queensland Reds star Rod Davies - Rod Davies Snr - and Rockhampton Metro Motel owner, Greg Browne.
Browne - part-co-ordinator of the Fiji bid with legend Petero Civoniceva - has been to the country five times where Davies Snr has a family.
On each trip the former Panthers recruitment scout was blown away by the untapped talent and interest in the 13-man game - in the traditional rugby union heartland.
He is adamant that a Fiji team in the NSW Cup would do wonders for the country.
In the space of just three years, that now looks set to happen.
"Rod Snr told me three years ago 'you have to get a team up and running in Fiji'," Browne told Australian Regional Media.
"Tongue in cheek I said 'yeah no worries, I'll just make a few phone calls straight up'.
"But I liked the idea and got to work on it - a few months and a few hundred hours of work later we got a business plan and proposal together, with our media coordinator Joel Morgan.
"Then we had our first meeting with the NSWRL."
Browne's friend and former Bronco Neale Wyatt rang Civoniceva to be the face of the bid as well as part-coordinator - and the former Queensland, Fiji and Australia star was more than happy to agree.
Browne then set off with former Wakefield and Central Queensland Capras coach John Harbin, Raiders recruitment guru Peter Mulholland and Davies Snr to scour the Fiji islands for talent.
They were all left stunned at what they saw.
"The depth of the untapped talent over there is phenomenal," Browne said.
"Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns go over there on recruiting missions and say how much talent there is, but they only see a small percentage of what's on offer.
"We'll have a massive base to choose from."
Browne admits it was daunting selling his idea to the Fiji public "being a foreigner in a foreign country and with no one knowing me".
But with the help of Civoniceva he said the people of Fiji were instantly receptive to the idea, and securing Pacific Building Solutions in Suva as the bid's corporate partner kept the momentum going in the right direction.
The NSWRL Fiji Bid page on Facebook now has almost 50,000 likes.
"Petero has been late for his plane a few times because the people over there love him so much and he never turns down a photo," Browne said.
"Everyone says 'we love rugby union over here but we'll support anything, even marbles'.
"To hopefully have teams go over often to play in such a high-standard competition and to have Fijian players get such great exposure in Australia - it's amazing and I can't believe it could happen."
The Fijian team has a ready-made ground to play at - ANZ Stadium in Suva which can hold almost 20,000.
"The only thing left is to get this across the line, but we've done everything we can to make it happen," Browne said.