Don Natabe is the Acting Chief Executive Officer at Fiji National Rugby League (FNRL), the governing body for rugby league in Fiji, and he could not be more excited about the prospects for 2022.
Like every nation on Earth, COVID-19 has caused unprecedented problems for sport in Fiji, but from this weekend when the Eastern Region will host its pre-season 9s competition, FNRL has a full and very busy programme. The schedule includes elite men’s, women’s and youth championships, schools’ competitions for boys and girls and the inaugural Fiji International 9s in November.
To cap the year off, Fiji will be heading to England for the delayed RLWC2021 and Mr Natabe is clear about his ambitions for the Bati, saying “We are excited about RLWC2021 and are very much looking forward to assembling some great Fijian talent for the biggest rugby league stage.
“We’ve been pretty much set from 2021 being one of many nations committed to the tournament. We have a good pool of players to choose from and potentially some young guns will make their first world cup.”
Fiji is deep into preparation for the competition and had already put in place an attractive warm-up game against the host, England to be played at Fiji’s “overseas capital city”, Rochdale! “The Bati haven’t played together since 2019, we haven’t had the luxury of being able to get international football for 2-years straight so this warm-up match will be crucial to having our boys learn to play together” explained Natabe.
🏆 There’s more to RLWC2021 than seeing the world’s best players in action.
RLWC2021 will be the biggest, best and most inclusive Rugby League World Cup ever with a firm commitment to making a difference on a global, national and community level.
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) April 1, 2022
The big question, however, is how far can Fiji go in the competition? Have they got a realistic chance of being the shock team at the men’s competition? Don Natabe is happy to explain without making any bold claims, “Our faith in God is immovable. We are supporting our head coach, Joe Rabele all the way through and we are confident of a fantastic experience for our players and staff at the rugby league world cup.
“A huge part of our success can be determined by the building blocks beginning with our preparation; this will culminate on the field at each match we play.”
“We are looking forward to the pre-world cup event in Rochdale and to our stay in our host city, Hull.
“Rochdale is special to the sport back at home as it has served as an inspiration to young Fijian players who dreamt to one day play rugby league overseas. Today our sports news is dominated by NRL & Super League Clubs, but in the 90s Rochdale was as popular.”
If planning and preparation are a guide to future performance, then Fiji Bati will be a major contender in the men’s competition at the Rugby League World Cup, there is no doubt.