It’s a case of back to the future for Kaivitia Silktails 2022 captain and prop Apakuki Tavodi. When the Fijian team made its debut in NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup in 2020, Tavodi was appointed club captain.
“But the season only lasted one game,” Tavodi recalled of the competition being abandoned due to the COVID-19 virus.
Tavodi was named captain for one game (Round 13) during 2021 after a string of injuries prompted head coach Wes Naiqama to call on his front-rower to lead the side.
“We didn’t finish the competition either last year,” he said.
However, Naiqama has again anointed Tavodi as skipper – this time for the 2022 season.
“I’m happy to once again be given the nod to lead the team,” he said.
“There are a lot of young boys, so to lead them on the field and to be showing them off the field how hard we want to play and how strong we want to be is something I want to share with them.
“I have some knowledge I think that will help them. There are a lot of new faces and they haven’t played any of their football at the level the competition is in Australia.
“A lot of them are straight from high school, and some are transitioning from rugby union into Rugby League, so there are some challenges but I’m happy to lead them.
The 26-year-old can relate in part to that moving between the two football codes.
“I started to play rugby union in primary school and Rugby League in high school,” Tavodi said.
“But I found I like Rugby League more because it’s much more physical. You have to be really strong and I feel it’s a game that suits me better.”
With only nine Silktails players from last year included in the 30-man squad that arrived back in Sydney in January, Tavodi is around his players a lot checking on them.
“We are gelling well together and there is a positive energy among the group, despite being so far from home and a new environment,” he said.
“We have each other and that helps.”
Tavodi played 13 games last year at prop but also plays lock and second-row. He doesn’t have a preference as far as position goes; just a passion in where he goes.
“The middle – anything in the middle.”
When the 2021 competition stopped in July, after Round 15, the Kaiviti Silktails were sixth. Top-five is the cut-off for the Ron Massey Cup finals in 2022.
“It’s a new side in that many haven’t had a taste of what it’s like to play in the Ron Massey Cup, but it doesn’t change our focus or our target for this year,” Tavodi said.
“We want to be in the top-five; we want to play finals.”
A place in the Fiji Bati World Cup side at season’s end is another drawcard. Fiji has been drawn in Group B alongside Italy, Scotland and Australia.
“I’ve been challenging our boys to always put their heads down and work hard, because if you do that, once you lift your head up, you’ll be somewhere better,” Tavodi said.
“So, by the time the World Cup comes around I’m sure you’ll see some of us there.”
Tavodi is an example of hard work. Last November in the off-season he graduated with his Bachelor of Agriculture from Suva’s University of the South Pacific (USP).
He is not alone. Five-eighth/halfback Mosese Qionimacawa has a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering from USP, while outside back Timoci Bola has a Bachelor of Commerce from Fiji National University.
Qionimacawa played for the Fiji Prime Minister’s XIII in 2019, and like Tavodi and Bola is looking for World Cup honours.
The Silktails’ participation in the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup is proudly supported by the Australian Government through PacificAus Sports.
The NSWRL receives funding from the Australian Government through PacificAus Sports to support the Silktails’ participation in the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup.