The Cronulla Sharks have entered into a significant partnership, one which will provide a direct pathway to the NRL for young Fijian players.
The partnership will be between the Sharks and the Kaiviti Silktails, the recently launched team which has been accepted into the NSWRL’s Massey Cup competition in 2020.
The agreement will see the Sharks become the Silktails NRL partner club for the next three years, with the pathway to see Fijian players given the opportunity go from their local Vodafone Cup competition, to the Kaiviti Silktails and the NSWRL Massey Cup, then potentially to the Canterbury Cup and to the NRL.
Similarly, for female players, Kaiviti Silktails women can progress to the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership with the Sharks.
The partnership is an exciting one for the Sharks, building on a Pacifica strategy where the Cronulla Club looks to provide pathways and opportunities to young men and women of Pacific Island heritage.
The Sharks trial match in PNG in February provides another example of the Club’s ongoing effort to foster and promote the game of rugby league in the Pacific Island region.
Petero Civoniceva, an ambassador for the Silktails, was present at Wednesday’s announcement, with the former Origin and Kangaroo representative excited about the partnership and the prospects for Fijian players.
“It’s been a long journey, six years in the making,” Civoniceva said of the Silktails. “Thank you so much to the Cronulla Sharks, its an amazing opportunity for our local players to see a genuine pathway to further their careers in Australia.”
The Prime Ministers of Australia and Fiji, Scott Morrison and Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, jointly launched the Kaiviti Silktails at the Prime Ministers XIII game at ANZ Stadium in Suva in October, where a young Australian team played a squad of Fijian players.
Despite the Australian team running out comfortable winners, an abundance of Fijian talent was unveiled, with many in the locally-assembled squad impressing.
As a part of their proposed structure, three squads of players will be identified for the 2020 season, the Kaiviti Silktails, the FNRL Academy and the Women’s Kaiviti Silktails, with around 80 players involved.
While the senior players will begin with the Silktails in the Massey Cup competition, should they catch the eye of Sharks NRL coach John Morris they can be elevated into the Canterbury Cup with the Newtown Jets as a forerunner to a possible career in the NRL.
With Fijian talent beginning to shine through in the NRL, Viliame Kikau at the Panthers, Maika Sivo at the Eels and Suliasi Vunivalu at the Storm examples of those to already be making their mark at the top level, Morris was understandably enthusiastic about the opportunity to bring through some future Fijian NRL stars.
“Having been in Fiji with the family recently I’ve seen their growing passion for rugby league,” Morris said. “There are so many great athletes just looking for an opportunity and to be pointed in the right direction.
“I’m excited we will have a role in helping to develop that next crop of young Fijian players and through our partnership with the Silktails, to provide them with a pathway to the NRL. One day I’d love to see a Fijian player come through the pathway and pull on a Sharks jersey at an NRL level,” Morris added.
Also present for the launch and partnership announcement was Sharks NRL Captain Wade Graham and representatives of Silktails sponsor and supporter Pacific Facility Services.
This story originally appeared on sharks.com.au