A pilot programme to provide financial and career education for Pacific Island rugby players based on a New Zealand model is being replicated in Fiji.
At a launch for the programme, Pacific Island Players’ Association general manager Josh Blackie said more than 600 Pacific Islanders are currently playing the sport around the world.
The decision to focus on Fiji first for the programme is because a high percentage of those players are Fijian.
Mr Blackie said players must be supported off the field if they were to play on the field.
The education of young players at the pre-elite level would be around financial management, conducting their affairs, and creating a career plan.
A similar professional development programme has been running in New Zealand for more than 10 years.
Mr Blackie said many of the players in that programme are Pacific Islanders.
“The NZRU have done a pot of work in this space and I guess they pioneered this programme, 15 or 16 years ago.”
Legal director and deputy chair of Fiji Rugby, Carl Ngamoki-Cameron, hopes the $650,000 worth of funding for the programme from the New Zealand Aid Programme will help players succeed in their home nation.
Mr Ngamoki-Cameron said the funding would encourage players to stay and represent Fiji.
A press release said the distribution of the funds would be spread over the course of three years.
However, the benefits may not be seen in a short amount of time. “It is a long process, it’s a programme for life,” said Mr Blackie.
A study conducted by Massey University in 2013 concluded many Pacific Island athletes were being exploited and needed clearer pathways to protect their future careers and earnings.
This programme intends to provide that support to Fijian players, and will be rolled out in Samoa and Tonga later this year.
The press conference to launch the programme was held on April 19 at the Heritage Hotel in the Auckland CBD as part of the Oceania Rugby AGM.