If you asked any Fijian before the year 2000 what their favourite Rugby League club was, you would find it very difficult to find anyone who didn’t say the Canberra Raiders. You can thank the legend Noa Nadruku, who carried the Fijian flag every time he stepped onto the field alongside some of the games legends in what is now one of the greatest teams in Rugby League history.Embed from Getty Images
A lot has changed since the 90’s and we have had an influx of Fijians across various clubs in the NRL. Some recruited from Fiji, some from Rugby and some raised in Australia. So we ask the question, which clubs has the biggest following in Fiji?
Some older fans may remember James Pickering turn out for the Blue and Whites in the mid 90’s. Fiji Bati reps Aaron Groom and Daryl Millard also played for the Bulldogs and represented the Bati at the 2008 and 2013 World Cups. Today you will see current Bati stars Marcelo Montoya and Brandon Wakeham.
The Sea-Eagles have had players like Nick Bradley-Qalilawa who played three seasons, Akuila Uate, Brayden Williame and Apisai Koroisau in recent years.
The Knights have a rich recent history with Fijian players most notably Akuila Uate who was a cult hero at the club. The Knights also have had three sets of Fijian Brothers in Tariq and Korbin Sims, Jacob and Daniel Saifiti and Wes and Kevin Naqiama.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans have had players like Pio Nakubuwai who made his debut at the club and Jarryd Hayne who spent two seasons with the Queensland club after his return from the NFL.
The Green Machine has a very large following in Fiji thanks to Noa Nadruku. Since his time at the club we have seen players like Sisa Waqa and most recently Semi Valemei.
North Queensland Cowboys
After he left Canberra, Nadruku spent 2 seasons at the Cowboys before we saw players like Ashton and Tariq Sims who both also played for North Queensland.
In recent years the Panthers have featured some big names like Waqa Blake and former club captain Petero Civoniceva. Wes Naiqama, Kevin Naiqama, Regan Campbell-Gillard and Tyone Phillips have also played for the Western Sydney club. Today you will see Viliame Kikau and Api Koroisau flying the Fiji flag at the foot of the mountains.
Sisa Waqa and Stanley Waqa both turned out for the Roosters in the late 2000’s and in recent years Bati forwards Eloni Vunakece and Kane Evans have both played for the Eastern Suburbs side.
Aseri Laing was the first Fijian to turn out for the Victorian club and since Semi Tadulala in the early 2000’s we saw a string of Fijians play for the Storm starting with Sisa Waqa and then Marika Koroibete, Suliasi Vunivalu followed by Tui Kamikamica and most recently Isaac Lumelume.
Not many Fijians have played for the joint venture over the years. Nick Bradley-Qalilawa in 2001-2003, Lote Tuqiri on his comeback from Rugby was a marquee signing at the time and Kevin Naiqama from 2015-2018.
The popular powerhouse club featured Lote Tuqiri and Petero Civoniceva in the early 2000’s and Ashton Sims towards the end of that decade. Civoniceva returned to the club in 2012 for his swansong season while Korbin Sims also spent two seasons at the Broncos from 2017-2018.
The team from the Shire hasn’t had a rich history of Fijians but look for that to change over the next decade as they are partnered up with the Kaiviti Silktails. James Storer and Junior Roqica both played at the Sharks with Jayson Bukuya winning a premiership at the club in 2016.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Older fans may remember Apisai Toga for the St George Dragons in the 60’s and 70’s. Since the merge of St George and the Steelers, we have seen players like Wise Kativerata, Ashton Sims, Wes Naiqama, Daryl Millard, Eto Nabuli, Tariq Sims, Korbin Sims, Taane Milne and Mikaele Ravalawa.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Former players include Manoa Thompson in the early 90’s, Wise Kativerata a decade later and players like Sitiveni Moceidreke, Daryl Millard along with 2014 premiership winners John Sutton, Apisai Koroisau and Lote Tuqiri.
Auckland/New Zealand Warriors
Manoa Thompson was the first Fijian to play at the Auckland Warriors in their first season in 1995. Since Thompson we have seen Jayson Bukuya and most recently Taane Milne and King Vuniyayawa.
Parramatta have enjoyed a close relationship with Fijian players over the past 15 years most notably Jarryd Hayne, Semi Radradra and Maika Sivo. All three players were cult figures at the Western Sydney Club. Other players include Brayden Williame and current players Regan Campbell-Gillard, Kane Evans and Waqa Blake.
That’s a brief history of most of the players over the last 20 years at least. Vote below for your favourite NRL club and don’t forget to leave a comment.
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