Unique role has Wakeham flying for Fiji Bati
November 9, 2019 9:15 am
Unorthodox thinking from Fiji Bati coach Brandon Costin will see his side line up with just one play-maker against Papua New Guinea today, giving young halfback Brandon Wakeham free rein to roam the field and play what’s in front of him.
It was a tactic used with success in the Bati’s dominant 44-18 victory over Samoa in Auckland last week as well, with captain Kevin Naiqama moving to centre despite being named at five-eighth and Fiji using an extra player through the middle of the park.
It’s a tactic rarely seen in the modern game, with most sides opting to station a half on either side of the field, but Wakeham said he’s enjoying every minute of it so far.
“I’m just on the ball the whole time and whatever I see goes,” said Wakeham, who is one of three Fijian players on the shortlist for the IRL’s prestigious Golden Boot award.
“It means I can roam around the field left to right, which I like, so I thank the coach for that one.
“We do have over-calls and other players that can call the ball, but it’s me taking control of the game and calling the plays and playing eyes up footy.
“It gets my hands on the ball and gets me in the game a lot more.
“Since coming through into the Bulldogs and playing rep footy I haven’t played where I could go side to side, there’s always been two halves and you stick to your side.”
Against Samoa 20-year-old Wakeham, who played three NRL games for the Bulldogs this year, made the most of his increased involvement, setting up two tries and laying on a pair of line break assists in the win.
Victory over the Kumuls at Orangetheory Stadium on Saturday will guarantee Fiji are promoted to Group A of the Oceania Cup for 2020 alongside New Zealand and Tonga.
Fiji prop Tui Kamikamica said securing games against top-tier nations next year is vital for the development of the island nation, particularly ahead of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in the UK.
The Storm giant added that the squad has been inspired by Tonga’s victory over Australia last week.
“I am craving to play a tier-one nation again. We all play rugby league to play the best in the game,” Kamikamica said.
“A win this week puts us in a good spot for next year and if we can play against tier-one nations it will be good.
“The last time we played against a tier one in 2017 we beat the Kiwis and played the Kangaroos.
“Watching what Tonga did last week, they’re a small island nation just like us, and they beat the number one team in the world… they have 100 per cent inspired us.
“We want to do that now and be on that stage.
“We all watched the game together back in the hotel… all of us boys from the islands were cheering Tonga on.”
Fiji will play PNG Kumuls at 4:20pm today.