[RLWC2017] NRL flavour for Fiji
Melbourne try-scoring sensation Suliasi Vunivalu and ex-Kangaroo Jarryd Hayne headline the Fiji Bati side named for the Rugby League World Cup.
Also included are Kane Evans (Sydney Roosters), Apisai Koroisau (Manly), captain Kevin Naiqama (Wests Tigers), Jacob Saifiti (Newcastle), Ashton Sims (Warrington), Korbin Sims (Brisbane) and Akuila Uate (Manly).
The 24-man squad was announced by Fiji Minister for Youth and Sports Laisenia Tuitubou after the ‘Battle of the Bati’ match between Fiji Residents and Overseas teams at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, which finished in a 16-all draw.
Nabua Broncos fullback Etuate Bola broke down in tears after being named as the standby player for a squad which includes 18 NRL players and two from Super League clubs.
Hayne will pull on a Bati jersey for the first time since the 2008 World Cup.
Naiqama, Koroisau, Korbin Sims, Ashton Sims, Uate, Evans, Eloni Vunakece (Sydney Roosters), Junior Roqica (London Broncos) and James Storer (Port Kembla) are survivors from the 2013 World Cup.
Bati coach Mick Potter said he had chosen Nabua Broncos centre Pio Seci after watching his performance in the ‘Battle of the Bati’ against an Overseas team comprising players who had appeared in less than eight NRL or Super League games this season.
Among them were Vunakece, Roqica, Storer, South Sydney centre Sitivene Mocedreke, Canberra winger Mikaele Ravalawa, Mounties five-eighth Henry Raiwalui, Gold Coast Ben Nakubuwai, St George Illawarra’s Taane Milne and former Roosters, Storm and Raiders star Sisa Waqa.
“Pio I think does a lot of things right, he saved a try for his team, he was involved in another as far scoring,” Potter said after the team announcement.
“He does things for his team-mates around him. He does his job but he also helps his team-mates around him and that for me is the epitome of what we need in the Fiji Bati.”
Hayne and other NRL stars who did not play in the Battle of the Bati will prepare for next weekend’s Tri Series against Australia and Papua New Guinea in Suva.
FIJI | THE BATI
Kane Evans (Sydney Roosters)
Salesi Faingaa (Parramatta Eels)
Jarryd Hayne (Gold Coast Titans)
Tui Kamikamica (Melbourne Storm/Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Villiame Kikau (Penrith Panthers)
Apisai Koroisau (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
Joe Lovadua (St George-Illawarra Dragons)
Henry Raiwalui (Mounties RLFC)
Taane Milne (St George-Illawarra Dragons/Illawarra)
Sitiveni Moceidreke (South Sydney Rabbitohs/North Sydney Bears)
Marcelo Montoya (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Kevin Naiqama (Wests Tigers) captain
Ben Nakubuwai (Gold Coast Titans/Tweed Heads Seagulls)
Mikaele Ravalawa (Canberra Raiders)
Junior Roqica (London Broncos)
Jacob Saifiti (Newcastle Knights)
Ashton Sims (Warrington Wolves)
Korbin Sims (Brisbane Broncos)
Pio Seci (Nabua Broncos)
James Storer (Port Kembla Blacks)
Akuila Uate (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
Eloni Vunakece (Sydney Roosters/Wyong Roos)
Suliasi Vunivalu (Melbourne Storm)
Brayden Wiliame (Catalans Dragons)
Standby Replacement | Etuate Bola (Nabua Broncos)
FIJI BATI AT RLWC2017 | POOL GAMES
v United States Hawks
7.40pm, Saturday, October 28
1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
v Wales Dragons
6.30pm, Sunday, November 5
1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
v Italy Azzurri
7.40pm, Friday, November 10
GIO Stadium, Canberra