The Kaiviti Silktails from NSWRL’s Leagues Clubs Australia Ron Massey Cup will face the PNG Hunters from the QRL’s Hostplus Cup in Fiji next week (Saturday 4 March) in a match to honour both cultures – the Melanesian Bowl.
It’s the second attempt by the Pacific nations to get the match off the ground.
The 2022 Melanesian Bowl was to be played on Queensland’s Gold Coast last February but had to be cancelled due to severe weather.
The accompanying social function bringing together staff, players, officials and supporters of both the Hunters and Silktails did go ahead, helping to cement the relationship between the two Melanesian-heritage clubs, who are both supported by the Federal Government’s PacificAus Sports program.
The match is now scheduled for Lawaqa Park, Sigatoka, Fiji, with kick-off scheduled at 6.30pm (Fiji time), or 4.30pm (PNG and Qld), 5.30pm (NSW) on Saturday 4 March.
“Last year we were so close to playing, but the match got washed out,” Silktails Executive Director Stephen Driscoll said.
“From a big-picture perspective it’s so good for both cultures, both countries to come together a second time and play. We would like this to be an annual event.”
The Kaiviti Silktails play their first match for 2023 against the Western Maroons, a Fiji National Rugby League (FNRL) representative team, this Saturday 25 February.
“But we’re also looking at the Hunters to give us a really good idea of where we are at before our season proper begins in the NSWRL,” Driscoll said.
“From our end it’s a great chance to test ourselves against a Queensland Cup side – a grade higher – who are also former QCup premiers.
“Being a PNG team just gives the match more relevance as well as both clubs strive to give their respective players a platform to play in the Australian domestic Rugby League competitions.”
Both the Silktails and Hunters are among teams in a variety of sports throughout the Pacific that have received PacificAus Sports support, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Since 2019 PacificAus Sports it has reached over 1000 players and officials at 120 unique sports diplomacy matches, events, and training camps.
Driscoll said there was extra incentive for the two high-profile Rugby League teams to play the match in Sigatoka.
“It’s a traditional rugby area but we’ve got a strategic plan there. We set up a gymnasium at the local high school there so this match is a great opportunity to showcase Rugby League,” he said.