The Solomon Islands will make their international rugby league debut this weekend against Vanuatu in Mackay.
The match has been in the works for the past few months and the Solomons head coach Kevin Taylor told Vinnie Wylie there's been plenty of interest.
KEVIN TAYLOR: We had a nucleus of players that we got hold of initially, and once we got that out there we got a lot of enquiries from a lot of players. We've probably got a list now somewhere in the vicinity of 40 players and growing, so it's unreal. It's a really good set-up.
VINNIE WYLIE: And what's the balance like between players based in the Solomons and based in the Australia-New Zealand region?
KT: A strong contingency based in Australia and obviously New Zealand players that have come over to Australia - that's the majority of the team at the moment. When it comes to the actual players from the Solomon Islands, what's happening there is we're setting up a process where the players there will be able to come into the team for longevity. So in the long run the side will be players from anywhere, basically that qualifies as Solomon Island heritage.
VW: And it's an interesting contrast, this game coming up, of course, because we've got a World Cup which kicks off in just a few weeks time and lots of high-profile players and teams that are preparing for that. It's an exciting time not just for the big guns, but for the next group of teams, as well.
KT: It's outstanding. It's probably the most exciting part of rugby league I've been involved with for a long time. And the passion is there amongst the players. They really want to be a part of it. We're looking at the next World Cup. Obviously this one's just about to kick off, but the qualification to get to the next one is big. And the players realise that. Small steps to start with, but who's to say where this goes over the next four years.
VW: And in terms of your match on Saturday obviously Vanuatu have a couple of players with NRL experience, and perhaps they've got a bit more big-match experience. What are your expectations for your team? What are your hopes for the game?
KT: We're going into this game to put in a good performance that can give the Solomon Islands something to be proud of. The captain of our side, Jardine Bobongie captained the Mackay Cutters in the Queensland Grand Final in the weekend. A young fellow Will Naitoro, originally a New Zealand-based boy who lives in Melbourne, he's had plenty of experience with the Melbourne Storm through their development programme. Dallas Anderson, who again played Queensland Cup this year for South Logan. Local lad here from Mackay, Luke Fatnowa, he also played for the Mackay Cutters last year and was involved with the Sydney Roosters. So the players have played a good standard of footy and the players that we've added to it all come from strong local leagues. We're going to have a fair side. We've had three days of some pretty serious training and I've been very impressed with what I've got there. I think we're going to have a pretty fair showing.