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RLWC a fitting finale for Civoniceva

More than 30 years after his first game of rugby league, Petero Civoniceva is finally ready to hang up his boots for good.
RLWC a fitting finale for Civoniceva
by AAP

By Liam FitzGibbon

MANCHESTER, England, Oct 22 AAP - More than 30 years after his first game of rugby league, Petero Civoniceva is finally ready to hang up his boots for good.

But not before one final - and fitting - challenge.

The 37-year-old will lead his country of birth Fiji at the rugby league World Cup, writing the final chapter in a career which has featured 45 Tests for Australia, 33 State of Origins for Queensland and 309 NRL games for Brisbane and Penrith.

Civoniceva retired from the NRL at the end of 2012 but he wasn't lost to the sport.

The hulking prop continued to play for his local club Redcliffe Dolphins in the Qld Cup and his form and fitness in that competition led to him being offered a swan song on the international stage.

Civoniceva, like his father, played rugby union in his early years before taking up league at school in Brisbane aged seven.

He hasn't looked back but is adamant his journey will end at the tournament in the UK and Ireland.

"This is it," Civoniceva said.

"I told my wife I'm leaving the boots behind and playing my last game for Fiji and that's it.

"She'll never see the football boots again."

Fiji will face Australia in their second pool match and Civoniceva admits it will be "strange" coming up against the side for which he gave so much over the years.

But he can hardly think of a better way to bow out than by honouring his heritage - and the decision of his mother and father to move to Australia from Fiji when he was just six months old.

"My parents came to Australia to get a better standard of life for myself and my two younger sisters," he said.

"It hits you and it hits you deep because you know they made a sacrifice in their lives to give us the best.

"It's certainly done that and now I get a chance to thank them for that by honouring my heritage and learning more about it."

The squad, coached by former Newcastle mentor Rick Stone, spent a week in Fiji as part of preparations for the tournament and Civoniceva was moved by the level of passion for rugby league.

He also been taken back by the support at the squad's UK base of Rochdale, which boasts a healthy rugby league-loving Fiji community.

Civoniceva is one of a host of former Australian Test players playing for other nations but insists spirit and drive won't be lacking among the ex-Kangaroos.

"We're professionals and we're here to do a job," he said.

"To link in to your heritage, that in itself builds that passion and brings it out."

Not that Civoniceva's professionalism has ever been in question.

Unsurprisingly, he arrives at the tournament fully fit having played every game for Redcliffe Dolphins this season and been one of the side's best players.

Fiji reached the semi-finals of the 2008 World Cup and are again expected to be competitive with a squad possessing plenty of NRL talent including Akuila Uate, Ashton, Tariq and Korbin Sims, Wes and Kevin Naiqama, Jayson Bukuya and Marika Koroibete.

They face Ireland in Rochdale on Monday.

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