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Sivo fever grips PNG as Bati embrace support

“Hey everyone, Maika Sivo is in the house!”


Sivo fever is so big in Papua New Guinea that officials had to secret him into a house opposite the Hohola Flies ground, while his Bati team-mates conducted a coaching clinic, to ensure they were able to maintain control.

Fiji squad swamped at community visit

With the announcement of Sivo's arrival at the end of the session, fans rushed for a glimpse of the Fiji superstar and stood outside chanting his name after the team returned to the house. 

Students at the school next door came to the fence overlooking a courtyard where the Fiji players were now gathered and also began chanting “Sivo, Sivo” after they spotted the 30-year-old.

"I don't think Sivo can go out there now, it is a bit too packed there at the moment," Blake said. "Everyone is just shouting 'Sivo' everywhere we go. As soon as they see him they start the Sivo chant. I thought I was back at CommBank." 

Blake was stunned that fans were also chanting his name at the school coaching clinic, which attracted a crowd of about 2000 to see the Fijian team, who play the Kumuls on Sunday at Santos National Football Stadium.

Before the session, on a rock-hard dirt field where the local grand finals will be played on Sunday, the students had sung “Happy Birthday” to the Parramatta centre, who turned 29-years-old.

“I have never seen anything like it before,” Blake said. “Being in the NRL, you hear all of the stories, but I couldn't believe that a lot of them knew my name and they sang me 'Happy Birthday'.

“It is crazy how big rugby league is in this country, we just got swamped, and I wouldn’t mind something like this happening in Fiji. It just shows that PNG deserves to have a team in the NRL. 

It just shows that PNG deserves to have a team in the NRL.

"From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful and thankful to PNG for hosting us.”

Blake explains the PNG experience

The coaching clinic was organised by Fiji coach Wise Kativerata after meeting Kevin Aribi, a student and player from Hohola, who was a member of the Bati academy in Suva.

“Kevin knows all the Fiji Bati players and he knows everything about the NRL, which all Papua New Guinea people know,” Kativerata said.

“He came and spent three weeks at my place, and this was Kevin’s wish - for the Fiji Bati to come and visit his place. It is amazing what rugby league can do for people.”

About 2000 fans turned up to a Fiji coaching clinic to see the Bati stars
About 2000 fans turned up to a Fiji coaching clinic to see the Bati stars ©Erick Lucero/NRL Photos

Players addressed the students about the importance of drinking water, eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle before heading to a roped off area where they ran coaching drills with the assistance of NRL PNG staff.

Thousands of fans stood outside the rope, calling the players over for photographs and autographs, but order was maintained until the end of the session as the Bati stars joined Sivo in the house owned by Kevin’s family.

“It is a dream come true for all the students and all the kids, and for us adults too,” said Kevin’s sister, Ali, who MC’d the event.

PNG v Fiji: Week 3

“Kevin had the privilege of spending three weeks at the Fiji Bati academy in Suva, Fiji. Through that friendship and relationship that we have fostered over the Pacific Ocean, we have bought the Bati to the community to Hohola.

“We are so thankful and grateful for that. We have never had this opportunity and it is a positive impact to hear the players talk about the importance of water, food and health.

“Seeing the players happy will build a positive and strong confidence within the kids.”

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Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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