30 Sep 2016

Sport: Fiji Residents skipper wants to lead the way for locals in Bati squad

1:16 pm on 30 September 2016

Fiji Residents captain Saimone Lomaloma admits he feels a large weight on his shoulders following his selection in the Fii Bati rugby league squad to play Toa Samoa next month.

The Fiji Residents team huddle together.

The Fiji Residents team huddle together. Photo: Facebook / NSW Cup

The 29 year old is one of only two locally-based players, along with Pio Seci, included in the 18-strong line-up, which features the likes of Wests Tigers speedster Kevin Naiqama, Manly hooker Apoisai Koroisau, Sydney Roosters pair Eloni Vunakece and Kane Evans and Newcastle Knights forward Korbin Sims.

Lomaloma has long held a passion for the 13-a-side game but said rugby league wasn't on his radar when he moved to Fiji earlier this year to set up a business.

However, the New Zealand-born second rower impressed playing for the Sabeto Roosters in national and zone competitions and captained the Fiji residents team

against Tonga and Canada in August.

"I got man of the match in the Canadian game so maybe that had something to do with the inclusion with the Bati side," he said.

"Firstly it's an honour but then also, having played in the Fijian competition...I feel like there's a big weight on my shoulders, not just to perform for myself but having been only one of only two domestic players there's so many good players and raw talent in Fiji that it's a shame that more players couldn't be exposed and having been selected as one of the two I wish there were more domestic-based players.

"The talent is all here. The problem that we have in Fiji is that we don't play at a high enough level for the boys to improve and therefore compete at an international level, or Queensland Cup/New South Wales Cup."

Fiji Bati second rower Saimone Lomaloma.

Fiji Bati second rower Saimone Lomaloma. Photo: Facebook / NSW Cup

Saimone Lomaloma said the impending introduction of a Fiji team in the New South Wales Cup next year will be a big boost to local players who dream of turning rugby league into a career path.

"I think it's confirmed next month but rugby league in Fiji is looking very promising in the near future," he said.

"I don't think it's just players that are playing rugby league. I think it can also be rugby union players that hopefully next year, if there's a New South Wales Cup side, it will be the only professionally based Fijian sporting team in the country.

"Every other team that's professional would be at international level and they won't be playing and training at home for the whole season.

"What you will see is a lot of players that could choose to go overseas and play rugby in France or the UK but now they will look at rugby league as an option to still live in Fiji but play at a decent level and be noticed for the likes of NRL."

First things first, Lomaloma is keen to prove himself in next weekend's test against Samoa in Apia.

"My job is just to train hard and put my best efforts forward and then if I'm selected to play in the game against Toa Samoa it would be a huge honour but I'd probably try and treat it like any other rugby league game otherwise if it was treated any different you get lost a little bit in the hype.

"The difference between what a domestic player brings to the table versus your guys that are playing first grade...is the standard they play week-in week-out is the higher standard. The difficulty I will have is firstly to try and reach that standard and do my best to prove that domestic players have the capability to meet that level of rugby league.

"Especially with the World Cup coming up next year I'd expect a few more domestic players to be included in the World Cup squad, with a bigger pool."

Samoa too strong for Tonga in the 2016 Pacific Test.

Fiji will face Toa Samoa next weekend in Apia. Photo: Facebook / NRL - National Rugby League