Fiji calling as NRL looks to break new ground with trial match
The Pacific islands have long been an area the NRL have identified as a potential for growth, both in fan bases and talent.
Players have flowed into the competition in recent times from the region, while support for the national teams has swelled.
Samoa made a historic Rugby League World Cup final in England last year, and there is real momentum behind a possible push for a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup in the islands with the support of New Zealand after France bailed on hosting the 2025 edition. That led to the international rugby league declaring the tournament would be delayed by a year and played in the southern hemisphere, with an announcement on the host expected soon.
Now the NRL could be set to take its next expansion step into the Pacific region, with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting the Melbourne Storm are set to host a trial match against the Newcastle Knights in Fiji.
There are a number of logistical hurdles to clear, including the fact all pre-season matches are now broadcast by Fox Sports. The pre-season challenge was introduced as a formal tournament last year and is expected to continue in 2024.
That would mean the support of the broadcaster would be needed, however, it’s understood the Storm are poised to announce a new sponsorship deal with Fiji Airways who will fully support and fund the idea of a trial match being played in Fiji.
It would be a historic occasion, with Suva having previously hosted Fiji vs the PM’s XIII with success in 2019. That game was played at the HFC Bank Stadium (then ANZ Stadium) in Suva, with the ground holding up to 15,000. Churchill Park in Lautoka is another option, with the ground holding over 10,000.
The report also suggests the Storm will use their newfound partnership in Fiji to increase pathways opportunities