Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama has called for the Fiji National Rugby League board to be voted out and re-iterated the players will boycott until they get their World Cup prize money.
Naiqama blasted the current regime as “unprofessional” as he opened up on the players’ discontent over passport, visa and payment issues during last year’s tournament.
He revealed how the squad’s player manager was sacked, while the passports of Ashton Sims, Korbin Sims and coach Mick Potter were lost – all in the first week of camp.
Forward Viliame Kikau was also close to missing their semi-final defeat to Australia after being stuck in New Zealand due to an expired visa.
“It was really unprofessional and it’s always been like that within the FNRL. For rugby league to go forward in Fiji, the current FNRL leadership cannot be in charge,” Naiqama told AAP.
“What we experienced was not good enough, and we’ve come to an agreement as a playing group that we will stand down from any Fiji Bati Tests until we get paid.”
The players’ biggest gripe is over the late transfers of $35 allowances provided by the tournament that were believed to be topped up by the FNRL.
Naiqama claimed the delayed payments lasted the entire campaign, and almost forced the squad to pull out of an appearance before the Fijian High Commission in Canberra.
It was only a last-ditch meeting with the Bati’s leadership group – involving NRL stars Jarryd Hayne, Akuila Uate and Api Koroisau – that prevented a possible revolt.
“That would’ve looked really bad,” Naiqama said.
But it is the failure to pass on the $125,000 prize money from reaching the semi-finals that was the final straw for the playing group, and Naiqama said the players’ demanded change.
“There was a contract we signed that has everything in black-and-white. They were happy to give us 100 per cent of the prize money and it’s something we have not received,” he said.
“We had countless meetings with (CEO) Timoci Naleba and (chairman) Filimoni Vosarogo which we thought went really well, but ended up as blatant lies.”
Naiqama said the group’s main concern was for the non-fulltime players.
“One day we actually called the FNRL office and they said the lady that was supposed to pay it didn’t want to turn up that day to put the money into the accounts,” he said.
“The players in the squad, not many of them are on full-time contracts. Some are called to support for their families and were relying on that money.”