Former NRL stalwart Brandon Costin hopes to transform Fiji into a genuine rugby league world force after being appointed as the first island-based fulltime coach of the Bati.
Costin replaces former NSW State of Origin and Australian Test star Matt Adamson on a three-year deal through to the 2021 World Cup in Britain.
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The new coach’s immediate focus is on developing local talent for Fiji’s much-anticipated entry to the NSW Cup — the NRL’s second grade competition — in 2020.
“If you’re not competitive, I think you lose excitement back home,” the former South Sydney, Western Suburbs, Canberra and Sydney Roosters five-eighth told AAP.
“So we’re trying to create players who can compete with the current NRL quality players.” Fiji is the only Pacific Island Nation to have reached the semi-finals of the past two rugby league World Cups, upsetting New Zealand en route to third place in 2017.
Costin was reluctant to make any bold predictions but acknowledged the next step for the Bati was to make a World Cup final.
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The 46-year-old hopes to mirror the success of the Fiji rugby sevens team that captured the country’s first Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro after the government helped appoint Ben Ryan as the sport’s first island-based fulltime coach before the 2016 Games.
“Those sevens players, they train fulltime on island. But they’re just kids from the village,” Costin said.
“So taking the parallel with that, if I can develop some local players that maybe make NSW Cup, maybe even get a start with the Melbourne Storm — a kid from the village in year one and he’s playing in a World Cup in year three — then that’s a level of success as well.
“To have a paid head coach on island is a wonderful experience for the players who are going to develop quicker, faster.
“And hopefully we can transition those NSW Cup players into the Fiji Bati side for the World Cup. That would be amazing.”