Fiji could boycott over RLWC pay dispute
THEY were the feel-good story of the Rugby League World Cup, but the Fiji Bati remain unpaid more than two months after making the tournament's final four.
Bati players are privately up in arms as they await the distribution of a $125,000 bonus for reaching the semi finals.
The Bati were knocked out of the World Cup by eventual champions Australia on November 24 after being beaten 54-6 at Suncorp Stadium.
But 75 days later, while the Kangaroos have each enjoyed $60,000 pay cheques for winning the tournament, each player in the Bati's 24-man squad is still owed thousands for getting within one game of the final.
Tas Baitieri from the Rugby League International Federation, who oversaw the World Cup, said the delay in paying the Bati was due to logistics.
"There has been a commitment where they share the prize money through the group, now it's a matter of doing it," he said.
"It would be easier to send the money to Fiji and have them pay the players, but that is going to devalue the sum through transaction fees and exchange rates.
"We're trying to come up with a formula where it's done correctly and within banking regulations.
"We guarantee 100 per cent that the players will receive their World Cup bonus money.
"It's just that the process to make that happen is not as easy as everybody expects it to be. We are trying to work through it in the appropriate manner."
The Bati became a fan favourite throughout the World Cup with their stirring pre-match hymns.
Jarryd Hayne was their high-profile acquisition for the tournament along with Ashton Sims, Suliasi Vunivalu, Kane Evans and Apisai Koroisau.
Captain Kevin Naiqama shed tears as he sung with pride and the Bati outperformed the likes of New Zealand, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.
The Bati's success was supposed to elevate rugby league's standing in a rugby union-mad country, however some players have instead become disgruntled with the game's administration.
Fiji National Rugby League boss Timoci Naleba said his organisation was not to blame for the delay in paying players.
"The agreement we had with the players was to have the prize money dispersed in Australia," he said.
"That means no single cent from that prize money will come over to Fiji. We had agreed with the players that no money comes to Fiji. It all remains in Australia and is dispersed in Australia by the NRL.
"We are now waiting for the NRL to advise if there is anything that needs to be done. We will facilitate it."
The Bati were on meagre allowances of $30 a day during the six-week World Cup which was later boosted to $100, in line with the Kangaroos.
The Bati's allowances were paid, however they are still waiting to be paid for making the semi finals.
Naleba said he had heard reports of players being disgruntled with the Fiji administration.
"There are a lot of changes being made to improve the FNRL over the past two years," he said.
"I've been in office since 2016. There have been a lot of changes and we can't expect those results overnight. It will take a few years.
"It would be prejudicial to ask for an overhaul. It is an unfair comment for the players to say that.
"Our local operations have seen a lot of improvement."