Hayne, Vunivalu, Naiqama headline Fiji Bati squad



hayneFiji rugby league coach Mick Potter says there’s a strong camraderie amongst the Bati team as they go into camp for the World Cup, which kicks off at the end of the month.

A 24-man squad was announced at the weekend following the “Battle of the Bati” match between Fiji Residents and Overseas teams in Suva, which finished in a 16-all draw.

Nabua Broncos centre Pio Seci was the only local player to make the final squad but a couple of others have stayed on in camp and Potter said the local game had come a fair way.

“They’re learning some of the subtleties of the game as well as how to be physical, they pretty much know how to do that,” he said.

“I think the skill level is improving as far as tactics are concerned and their ability to kick the ball and be able to build pressure I think is improving as well”.

The Bati squad features a host of NRL stars including Jarryd Hayne, who last represented Fiji at the 2008 World Cup, the NRL’s top try-scorer Suliasi Vunivalu and team captain Kevin Naiqama.

“The players really enjoy giving a little bit back to their country and just spending a little bit of time back here really broadens that for the player and makes it a better experience,” said Potter of his squad.

“And certainly playing for their nation they know that it’s probably not as strong as what England and New Zealand and Australia have but they feel like they can give a little bit back to the country itself.

“…certainly in Jarryd Hayne’s case I think it’s been a life-changer for him in some aspects and he’s become probably a better person for the experience”.

“I’m really happy with their camraderie. We’ve probably lost a couple of guys with injury just in the post-season, with Waqa Blake and Daniel Saifiti having shoulder reconstructions as well as Tariq Sims I think was out with a wrist injury,” said Potter.

“That gives another opportunity I suppose for younger players to come in – and that’s exactly what we’ve done – and there’s been a couple of others guys that have chosen not to play just for family reason so again there’s other opportunities for younger players to come in and make their mark for the Bati team”.

The Bati squad will have their first hit-out together on Saturday as part of an international tri series with Australia and Papua New Guinea in Suva.

All three teams will face each other at ANZ Stadium, with the hosts first-up against PNG before Australia takes on the Kumuls followed by Fiji.

All three match-ups will last 40 minutes and Mick Potter said fans are excited to see top-level international rugby league in Fiji.

“They really appreciate the players being there. I’m sure they’re looking forward to the Australians arriving because it’s going to be a pretty unique experience in their lifetime,” he said.

“I don’t think that the Australian team and Papua New Guinea team and the Fiji team have ever done anything like this so it’s a new concept”.

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