A National Rugby League Team with a number of Indo-Fijian players will be formed next month following a series of deciding matches in New Zealand and Fiji.
It would be a dream come true to the New Zealand Fijian Rugby League, (NZFRL) six years after its establishment and several nail-biting moments.
NZFRL Marketing & Liaison Officer Dylan Datt said NZFRL would participate in the Battle of the Bati Series in Fiji next month.
It would be a battle in which NZFRL and its counterparts in Australia and Fiji will vie for the Rugby League supremacy.
The Tournament will double as the national trial for places in the Fiji Bati team and international fixtures, which will be decided by the end of the year.
Mr Datt and NZFRL Chairman Steven Smith attended a board meeting of the Fiji National Rugby League in Suva last month to discuss the planning of the Battle of the Bati fixture and ways and means of promoting the game in Fiji.
Australian Fiji Rugby League Chairman James Pickering and his Marketing Liaison Officer Steve Driskoll also attended the meeting.
NZFRL has appointed former New Zealand Rugby League Captain Duane Mann as the Head Coach for the series, which will be inaugurated in Suva next month.
He is currently the Head Coach of the Bay Roskill Viking and works as the Coaching Development Manager across the Auckland Region, improving the quality of coaching within regional sport organisations, clubs and schools.
Mann would be able to lift the morale, quality and professionalism of the League with his wealth of experience and expertise.
He has played for top clubs in New Zealand and England and has been the Captain of New Zealand Rugby League at 35 matches including 29 Tests. He also played for Tonga and coached the team for the Pacific Cup in 2006, the year the team defeated the Fiji team in the Battle of the Bati Series.
Datt said his Association was always keen to incorporate a senior team of players who had “100% links with Fiji.”
“The Fiji National Team, Fiji Bati, NZFRL and Australia Fijian Rugby League will play two games each in Fiji next month, out of which a National Team will be named. The team will then play against Cook Islands and participate in other games to be played in Australia,” he said.
He said the initial selection process involved 100 players of which 70 were selected in the first trial phase.
The second trial brought the number to 40 players, including six Indo-Fijians.
The third and final trial held at the Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre in Manukau on August 25, saw the selection of 21 players and four non-travelling reserves.
“Michael Nand, Jaynesh Nair and Ahmed Khan were among three Indo-Fijians named in the Team. Mann decided on the players based on their ability and fitness,” Datt said.
The team would commence its first training session on September 5 at the House Park in Mangere and leave for Fiji on October 1 to play its first game the following day at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori.
The second game would be played against the AFRL on October 5.
“The Australians are likely to have a number of prominent New Zealand Rugby League players in their team. The National Team will be named at a formal ceremony hosted by the Fiji National Rugby League in Suva on October 8,” Datt said.
The League’s Committee members include Steven Smith, Dylan Datt, Joseph Strickland, Tevita Nassau, Kelly Church and Talei Mattner.
Further details can be obtained from Dylan Datt on (09) 2702011 or 027-2711244.
Photo : Officials and players of the New Zealand Fijian Rugby League at their meeting in Auckland on August 25, 2010.