Fiji have named their strongest possible line-up for next weekends Pacific Rugby League Test against Papua New Guinea after the Bati players called off threatened strike action.
Jarryd Hayne will run a star-studded Bati backline, including Suliasi Vunivalu, Akuila Uate and captain Kevin Naiqama, while Kane Evans and Jason Bukuya offer some crucial experience up front.
However Fiji’s forward stocks have suffered since the World Cup, with Viliami Kikau, Korbin Sims, Api Koroisau and Daniel Saifiti all unavailable for the test at Campbelltown Stadium through injury.
The team’s senior players were ready to skip the annual clash after the Fiji National Rugby League withheld $AU133,280 in prize money owed for reaching the semi finals and used it to pay a debt.
The Rugby League International Federation subsequently stepped in last month and loaned FNRL the money to pay the players.
RLIF International Development Manager Tas Baitieri was involved in talks between the two parties last month and said their differences have now been resolved.
“The new incoming president for Fiji (National Rugby League), Peni Musunamasi, flew across (to Sydney) from Fiji just to settle and calm everyone down and we left the meeting with the players and the Fiji Rugby League very cordial,” he said.
“The players will be playing…we’ve buried the hatches, we’ve drawn a line in the sand and everybody’s got a very optimistic future ahead of them, with some new guidelines that we’re trying to improve on both sides of the Pacific Ocean between the two countries and everybody’s looking forward to playing next week that’s for sure.”
Tas Baitieri said a new plan has been put in place to ensure such issues don’t happen again.
“At the end of that day they received that money. They received the money late however they did receive the money and all the obligations that the Fiji National Rugby League had entered into (with) the players have been met,” he said.
“Everybody’s drawn a line in the sand and…everybody’s got expectations in moving forward that there’s continuing to be transaprency and contunuing dialogue between the Fiji National Rugby League back in Fiji and the playing group here (in Australia) because they’re the ones that are representing the country.”
Fiji Bati squad:
1. Kevin Naiqama (c), 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Akuila Uate, 4. Tyrone Phillips, 5. Marcelo Montoya, 6. Jarryd Hayne, 7. Henry Raiwalui, 8. Kane Evans, 9. Joe Lovodua, 10. Tui Kamikamica, 11. King Vuniyayawa, 12. Salesi Junior Fainga’a, 13. Jayson Bukuya, 14. Eloni Vunakece, 15. Pio Seci, 16. Sitiveni Moceidreke, 17. Pio Sokobalavu, 18. Mikaele Ravalawa, 19. Junior Roqica.