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.
Silktails’ coach Wes Naiqama, who already holds qualifications in youth work, highlighted that since the players commenced their Certificate IV program, the team has gone on to win four games in a row, the highest number of consecutive wins in the club’s four-year history.
“There’s a new energy in the team that stems from the players bonding, sharing their learning journey and stimulating their minds, which directly impacts their training, game preparations and ultimately game performances…. It’s a win for the player, a win for the team and a big win for Pacific Islander communities in Australia and Fiji,” Wes said.
Silktails Executive Director Stephen Driscoll has overseen the program’s development, which will act as a catalyst for enhancing community development programs in Fiji in the future.
“We’ve spent the past 18 months working with NRL VET Pathways, VERTO and NSWRL to develop a flexible and practical education program that allows our squad to focus their energies developing future career opportunities and at the same time, create stronger team bonds that translate to better performance and results on the field,” Stephen said.
“Importantly, the qualifications in youth work our players obtain will actively support the next generation of young Pacific Island rugby league players both here in Australia and in Fiji.
“We can now move towards creating an identical platform in Fiji that the squad experiences here in Australia. The Kaiviti Silktails Community Youth Program will be launched in honour of our late Football Manager Jacquie Shannon 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 in 2023.
“To also have the support of Training NSW supporting this groundbreaking initiative compliments the long-term contribution already made by the Australian Federal Government through the Pacific Aus Sports Program. This again further demonstrates Australia’s commitment to empowering our youth not only in Fiji, but throughout the Pacific” he said.
Training Services NSW Executive Director David Collins said he was impressed with the Silktails squad’s willingness to fully embrace the benefits of a vocational education.
“The Youth Work course is really complementing what they’re doing on the field, and hearing about how they’re actually going through the training makes our support worthwhile,” David said.
“We saw there’s a lot of support for this team within the community and it’s really important for us that we’re speaking to that community and encouraging people to think about the opportunities that vocational education brings,” he said.
VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell gave thanks to Training Services NSW and the NRL VET Pathways team for their support of the Silktails vocational training and said VERTO’s involvement had been incredibly rewarding for his training staff and the company as a whole.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see that the training is now being rolled out…. The feedback from the trainers has been really positive,” Ron said.
“The trainers are enjoying working with the team…it’s probably one of the courses that they enjoy delivering the most. They’ve just got such engaged students that are part of this, so when the cohorts are engaged, the trainers are rewarded as a part of this process.
It’s great to see their efforts in the classroom are translating to their results on the field too!” he said.
NRL Wellbeing & Education Senior Manager Paul Heptonstall praised the efforts of the squad.
“We often talk about how if you’re engaged with something off the field, you actually play better on the field and I think that’s starting to show with the how the team is going this season,” he said.
“We hope that squad members are progressing their playing careers, but we also hope that they progress in their other careers outside of football.
“We see the correlation between doing both, so if you can juggle both then I think it’s formula for success,” he said.
The team’s next game is in Fiji for a Round 16 clash against the Ryde Eastwood Hawks in Lautoka on 15 July.