Fiji could follow USA in hosting NRL match in 2025

Scott Bailey |

Fiji rugby league fans could be watching an NRL competition game next year on home soil.
Fiji rugby league fans could be watching an NRL competition game next year on home soil.

Fiji is firming to follow in America’s footsteps and become the next country to host a competitive NRL game, with Melbourne keen to play a regular-season match in Suva from as early as next year.

Fresh off their pre-season trial in Lautoka a fortnight ago, the Storm are set to begin talks with prospective rivals about making Fiji the fourth nation to host a competition match after Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

“Everything is now well and truly in place to enable the game to host a premiership match in Fiji and we’d love to be a part of it,” Melbourne CEO Justin Rodski said.

“We’ll be talking to the NRL and to potential other clubs to be involved in that. We’ll be doing that over the next couple of months.

“We saw firsthand the impact it had on the community, the engagement from the community, attendance at the game, the love of rugby league.

“Obviously, rugby union is still the number one sport in Fiji, but rugby league’s growing.

“From us being there and having a presence, I think this is just the start of something pretty special for what could be a long-term play for the NRL in the Pacific.”

Last month’s trial in Fiji was pushed back slightly due to searing heat, with conditions well in the black zone in the lead up to kick off.

But any regular-season match will likely be played in July’s cooler conditions, with one proposal being before State of Origin III to give both teams a bye the following week.

NRL fans in Fiji watching trial game.
Fans brave the heat to watch the NRL trial between the Storm and Knights at Churchill Park, Lautoka. (Anthony Kourembanas/AAP PHOTOS)

Rodski was in Las Vegas for the NRL’s historic double-header that drew in 40,706 fans, and said his club wanted to help lead the game’s expansion.

“I can’t see any reason why it won’t be a success,” Rodski said.

“It’s a fan base of rugby and rugby league supporters that are ready to be mobilised and that can only be a good thing for our game.

“It’s only going to continue to support more pathways for young Fijians and other Pacific Island kids playing the game of rugby league.

“More than 50 per cent of the competition are from Pacific Island nations. So we’d be silly not to continue to invest in going to those regions.”

Rodski’s proposal would have the backing of the NRL, while the league also work with the Australian Government on Pacific strategies.

“A strategy for growth in the Pacific is really important to us,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.

“So thinking about growing the game in Fiji, why wouldn’t we want to consider taking a match there?

“That is something we will definitely work with the clubs on and our broadcast partners and look to see how we can continue to grow the game.

“You’ve got to take premiership matches to your markets if you want to win your fans.”

Fiji legend Petero Civoniceva also believes the time is right for the game, with the Fiji Silktails also entering the NSW Rugby League Jersey Flegg (U21s) competition this year.

“That would be amazing,” Civoniceva said.

“Hats off to the Storm and what they pulled off there in taking that match with the Knights to Fiji.”

AAP’s journalist travelled to Las Vegas courtesy of the NRL.