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Lacing Up

By Shane Hussein Posted 16 Oct 2013

Lacing Up
Why Petero Civoniceva decided to play for Fiji

There aren’t too many more popular figures in the world of Rugby League than Petero Civoniceva. The big Fijian is the most capped Australian rugby league forward of all time. He is the most capped Queensland forward of all time. He is part of a few National Rugby League (NRL) superstars who played over 300 games in the top grade.

So it was more than a little bit of a surprise when he announced his intentions at the beginning of this year to represent the Fiji Bati (our national rugby league team) at the Rugby League World Cup in October. I had always wondered why a legend who has been-there-done-that on (and off) the footy field would lace up for one last hurrah. And I was lucky enough to ask him myself.

On the evening on April 22nd, Fiji Airways launched our first A330 services to Brisbane, and celebrated its Brisbane to Fiji link with an event at Brisbane Airport. Petero accepted our invitation to headline the event. And it was evident from the cheers he got when he got on stage to say a few words that he was an extremely popular Queenslander.

His response to why lace up one last time, but don the white jumper of the Fiji Bati, was simple. His humility – typically Fijian.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do”, he said proudly. “It’s recognition of my heritage and honouring my family… I’m really looking forward to getting that opportunity… to re-connect with the Fijian team.”

Despite his fame, he didn’t take his selection for granted. Now 37, he kept himself fit by playing for the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Queensland Cup, with Fijian Rugby League official keeping a track on his progress.

He was final confirmed in the side as Captain on September 14th.

Civoniceva will lead a power-packed Fijian side to the World Cup, filled with NRL stars, including Akuila Uate (Newcastle Knights), Sisa Waqa (Melbourne Storm), Jayson Bukuya (Cronulla Sharks), Sims brothers Ashton (North Queensland Cowboys), Tariq (North Queensland Cowboys) and Korbin (Newcastle Knights), as well as the Naiqama brothers Wes (Penrith Panthers) and Kevin (Newcastle Knights). Actually there are 4 sets of brothers in the squad.

Even back in April, Civoniceva was excited about the talent in the Fijian team.
“…Definitely got tremendous amount of potential especially within the squad that we have on offer to be able to represent Fiji. We look at the NRL representatives alone, there’s great scope for great potential for our performance coming on for the Rugby League World Cup.”

This notion of heading back to your roots (or your parents’ roots) is the in-thing in Australian Rugby League circles. Stars of the game like Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta Eels) and Roy Asotasi (South Sydney Rabbitohs), among many others, will turn out for teams like Tonga and Samoa.

“That’s something that’s very important to all Polynesian / Melanesian players that are currently playing in the NRL, that opportunity to grow the game in the islands. All we have to do is look at the number of players with Pacific island heritage that are playing in the competition at the moment, we’ve got strong representation. Hopefully we'll see more and more players choose to for the country of their origin.”

The Fiji Bati squad to the Rugby League World Cup:

Petero Civoniceva (Captain), Wes Naiqama (Vice Captain), Kevin Naiqama, Sisa Waqa, Marika Koroibete, Akuila Uate, Aaron Groom, Kaliova Tani, Semi Radradra, Tariq Sims, Korbin Sims, Ashton Sims, James Storer, Alipate Tani Noilea, Jason Bukuya, Vitale Jnr Roqica, Tikiko Inoke, Ilisavani Jegesa, Eloni Vunakece, Darryl Millard, Ryan Millard, Apisai Koroisau, Kaine Evans, Peni Botiki

Shane Hussein is the head of public relations for Fiji Airways

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