Kaiviti Silktails – 2023 End of Season Wrap

For the Kaiviti Silktails Rugby League Football Club, the 2023 season was our biggest learning curve yet, as after a two-year relocation period to Australia in 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2023, we finally returned to Fiji – playing 9 Home Games in Fiji, and 7 Away Games in Sydney, Australia – proving to be quite the force to be reckoned with when played against at home.

Our 2023 Kaiviti Silktails squad was our youngest ever, as we adhere to being a Development Club. Silktails Executive Director Stephen Driscoll nicknamed our 2023 squad the ‘Baby Silktails’, as the average age of our squad was 20.5, after so many of the young players impressed our coaching and recruitment staff at our 2023 Rookie Camp, with 18 of them invited to join us for pre-season.


For the first time in three years, the Silktails were able to enjoy a full pre-season at home in Fiji, with players close to their families and the club establishing a visible presence in the community. In our two pre-season matches, the Silktails played the FNRL State of Origin champions – the Western Maroons, and the Papua New Guinea Hunters in the historic 2023 Melanesian Bowl.

The Silktails were victorious against the Western Maroon’s but lost to PNG, giving Head Coach Wes Naiqama a rough idea of how the squad performed under pressure heading into the 2023 NSWRL Ron Massey Cup season.

Round Recap – Home & Away Games

In 2023, we finally returned to Fiji – playing 9 Home Games in Fiji, and 7 Away Games in Sydney – proving to be a dominant force when played against at home with a 7/9-win aggregate, as our fighting Fijian spirit shone through with the support of our home crowd at Churchill Park, Lautoka and Prince Charles Park, Nadi.

Round 2 was our first Home Game in Fiji since 2020, and it was a moment the club had been desperately waiting for – to play in front of family, friends, and supporters in Fiji. The Silktails played the RMC Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Churchill Park, Lautoka – with the match also cousin vs. cousin, as Silktails Captain Rusiate Baleitamavua and RMC Bulldogs Captain Penioni Tagituimua are related, which added another level of excitement to the game and for the families. The Silktails pushed hard to get an at-home win and were successful – winning 44 – 10 in their first victory for the season.

In Round 5, the Silktails returned to Fiji to play the 2022 NSWRL Ron Massey Cup champions – Hills Bulls, defeating the defending champions 36 – 24 in a very proud moment for the club.

Rounds 10, 11, 12 and 13 were our most successful to date, as for the first time in our club’s short history, we achieved four wins in a row; all of which, were at Home. The Silktails defeated the RMC Penrith Brother’s, Bulldogs, Glebe Dirty Reds, and Mounties – blazing a redemption trail as three of those four teams we had lost to in the first half of the season.

Round 16 was our most special yet, as the club played in the Inaugural Jacquie Shannon Memorial Bowl – in honour of our late Football Manager. The club was led on to the field by Silktails Player Fenton Williams, the 20-year-old nephew of the lady we all know as Aunty Jacquie. The Silktails pushed hard to get the win for their Mani against the Ryde-Eastwood Hawks and won 28 – 10, winning the club’s first trophy.

In Round 18 – the final week of the 2023 NSWRL Ron Massey Cup season before finals rounds, the Silktails lost to St Mary’s Saints in Sydney – effectively ending their 2023 campaign.

At the conclusion of Round 18, the Silktails finished in 6th place on the 2023 NSWRL Ron Massey Cup Ladder – mirroring their 2022 position, and just falling short of the elimination finals.

Club Highlights and Milestones

In 2023, the Kaiviti Silktails RLFC had quite a few highlights as a club, as we push on this journey to provide a development pathway for Fiji’s best local rugby league talent.

Kaiviti Silktails Community Youth Program

In a Fijian rugby league first, the Kaiviti Silktails RLFC have joined forces with the NRL’s VET Pathways team and Australian-based employment, training, and community services provider VERTO, to launch a vocational Certificate IV Youth Work program with 30 Silktails squad members.

The program, funded through Training Services NSW and delivered by VERTO, got underway in mid-May at the Silktails’ Lautoka headquarters in Fiji, and will also be delivered to players while based in Australia during the NSW Rugby League’s Ron Massey Cup season.

As a result of this training, the Kaiviti Silktails Community Youth Program was launched in honour of our late Football Manager Jacquie Shannon – where Jacquie’s silhouette is in the logo design – and inspired by the club’s long-standing partnership with PCYC NSW where our Sydney training base is. Our players will work for this program delivering 20-30 hours a week of youth work to balance out their training commitments.

Jacquie Shannon Memorial Bowl

In Round 16 of the NSWRL Ron Massey Cup, the Kaiviti Silktails paid tribute to its most loved staff member Jacquie Shannon, when we played the Ryde-Eastwood Hawks in the Inaugural Jacquie Shannon Memorial Bowl.

Jacquie Shannon was the team’s inaugural Football Manager appointed in the pre-season of 2019, and later was promoted to club General Manager. Jacquie was the backbone of the club, playing an integral part in the establishment of the Kaiviti Silktails RLFC from its inception in 2020 to its current form today.

The Silktails pushed hard to get the win, and came away victorious, winning 28 – 10. This victory marked the club’s first trophy win.

Silktails Christmas In July Fundraiser

On the last weekend of July, the Kaiviti Silktails held their 2023 Christmas in July Fundraiser at Kirribilli Club, in Sydney.

The purpose of our Christmas in July Fundraiser was to provide an opportunity for the Fijian community and well-wishers of Fiji to come together and celebrate a night of Rugby League.

Our club relies on funds to keep providing opportunities for our players. At our fundraiser, we raised a phenomenal $30,000 – which will go towards our Silktails team facilities in Fiji at our home base in Lautoka, to help improve the living environment for our squad whilst they are in camp away from family and loved ones. This work has already started, as the club has begun upgrading our players’ living and dining area at our Centre of Excellence, in Lautoka.

The vision of the organising committee was to build a centre which keeps up with the facilities in Sydney, so they are competitive and create an environment of care and love from the Fijian Diaspora.

Kaiviti Silktails & Sydney Roosters

In 2023, the Kaiviti Silktails had 7 players join the Sydney Roosters in NSW competitions.

These players included: Vuate Karawalevu, Watisoni Waqanisaravi, Iobe Taukeisalili, Meli Nasau, Sirilo Lovokuro, Tomasi Seru and Simione Cakauniqio – all of which, played for the Roosters in Development Games and/or the NSW Jersey Flegg Cup.

Silktails Players Watisoni Waqanisaravi, Iobe Taukeusalili, Meli Nasau and Simione Cakauniqio joined the Sydney Roosters for their 2023 pre-season.

Head Coach and Team Captains Q&A

Upon reflecting on the 2023 season, we asked our Head Coach and Team Captains their thoughts on the clubs performance this year.

Head Coach – Wes Naiqama

The 2023 season was Head Coach Wes Naiqama’s third year coaching the Silktails, with Naiqama building a reputation as an outstanding Development Coach – with this reflective in the number of players that have progressed on from our footy program.

Q. What do you think were the Silktails biggest strengths and weaknesses throughout the 2023 season?

Naiqama: Our biggest strength this season I would say would have to be our physicality, willingness to compete, and playing for each other. With an average age of 20 in an open age competition, apart from maybe 2 games, not many teams could match us in that department. The physical development of our first-year players from the time they came into Rookie Camp, to the end of the season, was really evident which I can give credit to our Strength & Conditioning Team for and the work the boys put in. The part that we need to improve on going forward would have to be our game awareness and footy IQ, which will come with another big pre-season and more game time.

Q. What were the key factors that contributed to the team’s successes or challenges during the season?

Naiqama: After 2 years of having to re-locate to Sydney due to COVID, being based back in Fiji and playing home games here was key factor to our success this season. We won 7-9 games at home with some great performances, with a standout win being against last year’s Premiers Hills Bulls 36-24. Unfortunately, the challenge that came with that was the travel component for away games in which we were unable to get a win on the road. This is something as a club we will need to be better at if we want to be in the mix for finals going forward.

Q. Did the team implement any new tactics or strategies during the season compared to last? If so, did they work?

Naiqama: There was a big focus around defence principles, wrestle, and effort – and being selfless and team players. With our attack, I had to simplify it a month in, as we were beating ourselves in games with poor completion rates. As the season we went on, we started adding more layers to our attack and had some joy. Moving Club Captain Sunia Naruma to halfback was a revelation, and having our spine play together consistently allowed continuity and reflected in the team going as good as we did.

Q. As Head Coach, what moment/s do you consider to be a highlight this season?

Naiqama: There were so many highlights this season for our club. One I’m proud of was 19 players debuting for the Silktails. Each player did the club and their families proud and contributed to the team’s success. For the first time in the club’s history, we were able win 4 in a row, which really set us up for the back half of the season. The biggest highlight of the season would be winning the first trophy for the club and taking out the Inaugural Jacquie Shannon Memorial Bowl. For what Jacquie did for this club and how much she meant to us, it was the ultimate tribute to her with our performance that day and keeping the Bowl here in Fiji for another year.

Q. Going into season 2024, where do you think the biggest improvements need to be made?

Naiqama: Going into season 2024, apart from us having to handle the travel component better, I think our biggest improvements will be made at training and finding consistency in the way we prepare for games. Fundamental skills are a part we will focus on too. No doubt all our first-year players will be better for it in their second year, as this is where we’ve seen the biggest growth in our players over the years. All in all, I am excited for what next year holds for us and bringing through the next crop of players and continue to develop these young men.

Team Captains – Rusiate Baleitamavua & Sunia Naruma

The 2023 season was Team Captain Rusiate Baleitamavua’s second year as a Silktail, and first as Captain. With a standout season in 2022 where Baleitamavua came close to taking out our ‘Tabu Soro’ Award, Rusi has continued to shine in 2023 – both as a player, and captain.

The 2023 season was Team Captain Sunia Naruma’s third year as a Silktail, but first as Team Captain. Naruma came to the Silktails at the end of the 2020 season and was selected in our 2021 squad. In 2022, he joined our leadership group as the youngest member – and won the ‘Clubman of the Year’ award for 2022.

Q. What were the most significant moments or matches that stood out to you during the season, and why?

Baleitamavua: My standout moment was winning the Jacquie Shannon Memorial Bowl because it was the first trophy the club has ever won, and it commemorates the life of our late manager who invested her time and efforts into the future of us boys.

Naruma: My most significant moment this year was getting the 4 boys (Bola, Jilivecevece, Kovekalou and Kalou) back from the Ipswich Jets and into the Silktails team and sharing their knowledge with the team.

Q. How did you approach your role as team captain throughout the season?

Baleitamavua: I had to be consistent, encouraging, and needed to hold my standard of giving 100% effort in every practice and game.

Naruma: I knew when taking on the position that it takes a lot of confidence to lead a team, but I felt ready thanks to Rusi and the older players.

Q. Were there any bonding activities or rituals that helped build team spirit?

Baleitamavua: The amount of hours the boys spent at training and at the Centre of Excellence created a bond between players, and it showed when we played on the field, turning up for each other even when we were tired or one man short.

Naruma: On the weeks we didn’t have a game, we would go train at the beach and do activities, which really got the boys together and built a bond and trust.

Q. What were the team’s strengths and areas that needed improvement this season?

Baleitamavua: Our strengths were our bond on-and-off the field, problem solving when there were challenges – the boys had solutions to overcome them, and our respect for each other. Areas we need to improve on, include our communication and time management.

Naruma: I would say our strengths for this team is our bond and trust built with the coaches and staff. Where we could do better, is our knowledge of the game.

Q. What steps were taken to maintain a positive mindset and bounce back from defeats?

Baleitamavua: Turning up the next week after the defeat with a clear head and making all our training days during the week count with no distractions to ruin the weeks preparation.

Naruma: Just making sure we tick all the boxes and help each other go through the weeks training and having the right mindset throughout the week.

Silktails In 2024

With the 2023 playing season now completed, the Silktails look forward to celebrating the year at their 2023 ‘Tabu Soro’ Awards Night in October, this year held in Fiji. The club will also be preparing for their 2024 Rookie Camp.

We have many exciting club announcements to be made, as we prepare for the next season.

Vinaka Vakalevu to all our sponsors, members, and supporters that have helped us along this journey. We look forward to seeing you in Season 2024 – stronger and wiser for the experience, after so many learning curves in 2023.