Since the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, the 13 man code has been on the rise in Fiji. It was the World Cup where the Bati announced itself on the World stage, and also demanded Fiji take them seriously. Partly due to established NRL players like Jarryd Hayne and Ashton Sims opting to represent their nation of heritage, and partly due to the lax International Rugby League eligibility laws.
Nonetheless the team exceeded expectations by reaching the Semi Finals stage playing some thrilling and exciting football in the process. We were also introduced to future NRL players Akuila Uate and Jayson Bukuya.
Rugby League, once a foreign and virtually forbidden game in the Islands, is now another avenue for our aspiring young male and female athletes.
We’ve compiled a list of who we think were the 10 best Rugby League forwards from the decade 2010-2019. Players considered are either Fijian Born or Fijian through ancestry and include their club and representative performances.
10. Daniel Saifiti (2015-2019)
Current Newcastle hardman Daniel Saifiti made his international debut for the Bati in 2015 before his first grade debut in 2016. He has been a regular for the Knights in his first 4 seasons with 2019 being his breakout year after selection in the second and deciding games of the State of Origin series.
NSW won both games and the series with Saifiti leading from the front as starting prop forward.
9. Kane Evans (2013-2019)
Parramatta Eels prop Kane Evans first don the Bati jersey at the 2013 RLWC before his first grade debut for the Roosters in 2014. He played 75 games for the Bondi club up until 2017 when he joined the Eels.
Known for his offloading and aggression, Evans has become a regular at NRL level and leader for Fiji on the representative front.
He’s played for the Bati 13 times including the 2013 and 2017 RLWC’ and was selected in the 2016 World All-Stars match.
8. Korbin Sims (2013-2019)
St George Illawarra Dragons forward Korbin Sims earned his first test cap at the 2013 RLWC alongside older brothers Tariq and Ashton. He made 76 appearences for the Newcastle Knights from 2013-2016, 44 matches for the Broncos in 2017-2018 before returning to hometown club the Dragons to once again be reunited with brother Tariq.
He was named in the 2017 RLWC squad but was ruled out of the tournament with injury before the opening game.
7. Jayson Bukuya (2010-2019)
Sharks veteran Jayson Bukuya first appeared for Fiji at the 2008 RLWC. He also made his first grade debut that season playing 4 games for Cronulla.
Bukuya has 186 NRL games to his name including 18 for the Warriors in 2014. He’s also represented the Bati on 11 occasions including the 2013 RLWC and captained the side in 2016.
Jayson was also a part of the 2016 Sharks Grand Final side that defeated the Melbourne Storm, creating history by winning the clubs first ever premiership.
6. Reagan Campbell-Gillard (2014-2019)
Newly signed Eel Reagan Campbell-Gillard made his first grade debut in 2015 for the Penrith Panthers where he would play the remainder of the decade before signing with rivals Parramatta for the 2020 season. Gillard’s breakout season was in 2017 where he established his trademark “off the back fence” hitups and being named Dally M interchange player of the year.
He was selected in the 2017 RLWC for Australia, making 5 appearances for the Kangaroos. He’s also represented the Bati on 2 occasions in 2014, World All-Stars in 2017 and NSW Blues in 2018.Embed from Getty Images
5. John Sutton (2010-2019)
South Sydney Rabbitohs legend John Sutton comes in at number 5 on our list and 5 on the all time first grade games list with 337.
He never played representative football in the last decade but is part of Rugby League history as the captain of the Rabbitohs 2014 premiership side.
Sutton announced his retirement at the end of the 2019 NRL Season after 16 seasons with the Redfern club. He is the most capped South Sydney player of all time.
When it comes to the Fiji Bati forward pack, no other player has more caps than former NRL hardman Ashton Sims. He represented Fiji from 2008-2017 and was selected in all three World Cups in that time. He was known for intimidating opponents with his hard running and aggressive defense.
Sims played over 100 games for the Dragons and Broncos combined, 91 games for the Nth Queensland Cowboys and 90 matches for Super League club Warrington.
He finished his career and the decade with Canadian side Toronto Wolfpack where he helped the club gain entry into the UK Super League.
Before we get to our top three Fijian Rugby League forwards of the decade 2010-2019, we’d like to mention a few players who were also considered for this list: Tui Kamikamica, Brayden Williame, Jacob Saifiti, Pio Nakubuwai, Junior Roqica, Peni Botiki and Eloni Vunakece.
3. Tariq Sims (2011-2019)
Dragons and NSW blues hitman Tariq Sims comes in at number 3 on our list after an impressive decade which has seen him rise to one of the best forwards in the game.
Tariq burst onto the scene in 2011 for the Nth Queensland Cowboys alongside older brother Ashton, scoring long range tries and nailing opposition defenders with bone crunching tackles. He played 71 games for the Cowboys before signing with Newcastle to play alonside younger brother Korbin. He played 27 games for the Knights before signing with the Dragons midway through the 2016 season.
Sims represented the Bati at the 2013 RLWC playing in all 5 matches including the Semi Final against the Kangaroos. He has also represented the Blues in State of Origin in 2018-2019.
2. Viliame Kikau (2015-2019)
Panthers juggernaut and Bati superstar Viliame Kikau was a late inclusion on the NRL scene, making his debut in 2017 after previously representing the Bati since 2015. Big Bill as he is also known, has captivated Rugby League fans with his storming runs and wide range of ball skills in his first three seasons of first grade.
Kikau’s performance at the 2017 RLWC earned him selection in the team of the tournament and was handed the Panthers starting second rower spot in Round 1 of 2018. He has since developed into one of the games most damaging forwards.
Viliame was also nominated for the Golden Boot award for best international player in 2019.Embed from Getty Images
1.Petero Civoniceva (2010-2013)
Topping our list is none other than 2018 NRL Hall of Fame inductee Petero Civoniceva. He is one of the most respected and toughest men to ever play the game. Petero played 309 first grade games from 1998-2012 before his NRL retirement in 2012. However, he would turn out for the Bati at the 2013 RLWC and was named skipper for the tournament.
His illustrious career include 33 State of Origin games for Queensland, 45 for the Kangaroos and 6 for the Bati. He also captained the Penrith Panthers from 2008-2011 before returning to the Broncos.
He has to his name three premierships in 1998, 2000 and 2006, 9 Origin Series Wins from 2001-2012 including 7 straight from 2006-2012 and retired a legend of the sport.
Join in the conversation
That concludes our list of top 10 Fijian Rugby League forwards from the decade 2010-2019. What did you think of our list? Have we missed anyone? Join in the conversation in the comments below.