New Fiji Bati coach keen to develop local talent
The new Fiji rugby league coach says the chance to live on-island and to grow the sport from within is what attracted him to the role.
Brandon Costin spent more than a decade playing professionally in Australia and the UK, and also featured in one test for the United States.
The 46-year-old, who spent six seasons in charge of Souths Logan and Sunshine Coast in the Queensland Cup, has signed a three year deal to coach the Bati through until the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
But the former NRL Samoa Manager said he's especially excited about the chance to work with Fiji's local talent.
"I will coach Fiji Bati in the 2021 World Cup but being able to develop players, local players, at schoolboy level and they started their Vodafone Cup series on Saturday - the open-age division," he said.
"Just being able to help develop those players move and progress, hopefully, into some NRL systems then these young blokes that live on-island are going to change their whole lives."
The Fiji National Rugby League stipulated the next Bati must base themselves in Fiji and Brandon Costin believes the move will benefit both the coach and players.
"I think it's a lot easier for that player when there's a coach on-island with a development plan that can keep the players accountable rather than this new coach being say an NRL coach who just pops in for test matches and World Cups," he said.
Fiji have reached the semi finals at the last three Rugby League World Cups and Brandon Costin was also quick to praise the work of his most recent predecessors.
"The work that Rick Stone, Mick Potter and Matt Adamson did really built Fiji National Rugby League to this place where they felt like they needed the coach to be here and to be able to progress those local players," he said.
"Fiji National Rugby League really believe that the local player has so much talent and can push for higher levels of play, whether they're 17 and 18 and going through the junior ranks at an NRL club or moving into like the New South Wales Cup or Queensland Cup.
"They really believe the player has the talent and they just have to be nurtured to a degree and we probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the work Rick Stone, Mick Potter and Matt Adamson have previously done."
Rugby league pales in comparison to its oval ball cousin rugby union in the battle for the hearts and minds of Fijian sports fans but Costin said the 13-a-side team can take inspiration from the success of the Fiji sevens team on the world stage.
"The talent is there and needs to be given the opportunity and really when we get that greenlight for the New South Wales Cup it could be the missing link that will accelerate Fiji even higher in the world rankings," he said.
"Because there's a clear and distinct pathway so we've got our schoolboy players coming through a strong local competition and they're able to then move into the New South Wales Cup squad, via the local residents team, and then obviously go forth and get NRL contracts.
"Once they're in NRL systems they're going to be looked after way better than we can do here so their progression and development is going to accelerate and then those kids can obviously come back and represent the Bati."
Brandon Costin's first match in charge of the Bati will be in June, with further tests scheduled for the end of the year, along with the 9s competition at the Pacific Games in Samoa in July and Rugby League World Cup 9s in Sydney in October.
Fiji put a bit hit on former Bati international Reagan Campbell-Gillard during the 2017 World Cup semi final.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/