Fiji resist league lure
By NAZVI CAREEM
FIJI'S outstanding sevens squad of 1992 have eluded the clutches of rugby league scouts, enhancing their chances of winning a fourth consecutive Hongkong title and lifting April's inaugural World Cup.
With top sevens exponents Waisale Serevi and Mesake Rasari currently working in Japan, there will be no repeat of last year when Fiji's 1991 squad were devastated by the defection of four leading players to the lucrative Sydney Rugby League Sevens.
Although the defections had little effect on their union squad - as they proved in last year's Hongkong Sevens final against New Zealand - the Fijian Rugby Union have decided not to take any chances.
Their players have been given higher profile jobs and positions in and out of Fiji, ensuring they are financially looked after and reducing the temptation to switch codes.
But Ken Arthurson, chairman of the Australian Rugby League governing body, said: ''The Fijian league players are very keen. They did very well last year and we expect them to be even stronger this year. Fiji are a very popular team in the tournament.'' Last year, the Fijians won the Plate event in Sydney.
Fiji's 10-man squad for this year's Sydney Sevens, in the first week of February, includes two former Hongkong Sevens players - the 1991 Player of the Final Noa Nadruku and Niko Baleiverata.
Australian rugby league champions Brisbane Broncos are top seeds for the event followed by St George.
St George became the second seeds after organisers threw Britain's defending champions Wigan out of the competition because they named a second-string squad to defend their title.
Serevi and Resari, Player of the Tournament at last year's Hongkong Sevens, are believed to be earning up to US$12,000 per month working and playing in Japan.
Fiji will be going for a record fourth consecutive victory in Hongkong from March 27-28.