South Pacific talent surprises for the right reason
Sunday, January 23 2011 @ 04:28 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
Further to the outcomes of the mid December Oceania Cup under 16s tournament was the positive reaction to the AFL ‘Combine’ that was run as part of the tournament schedule. On Friday December 17th, some of the best talent were tested and able to be benchmarked against AFL draftees current and recent including some of the biggest young names in the AFL.
Apart from the 'Combine', the South Pacific lads had impressed in their defeat of the Flying Boomerangs (who had earlier smashed the PNG'less Oceania side). As reported in PNG's 'the National', PNG coach Walter Yangomina was quoted saying ".. that the win that had the most meaning was the combined Pacific Island, including nine from PNG, which defeated the highly tauted Boomerangs, an ensemble Australia’s best junior talent". “That win was massive. We got them by about five goals in the end which was a very healthy margin against an Australian side”.
Reported on the AFL website Dec 30, “Recruiters edge closer to South Pacific talent“, this story details some remarkable results from the young men tested, the equal of anything seen in Australian testing.
The articles report that a total of 55 lads were tested.
AFL national and international talent manager Kevin Sheehan indicated that the testing was similar to that at the annual (NAB) AFL Draft Combine (as it is now known), and that the results were “surprisingly impressive”.
Sheehan showed confidence that more kids will get signed onto AFL international scholarships. He indicated that over half of the kids were spot on for skills right and left, hands and feet, despite not having access to the resources of kids in Australia.
The testing including Tonga youngster Peni Mahina, who has been featured before, has captained his country and represented the South Pacific in Australia last year in the U16 nationals. He also received coverage as a younger cousin of Israel Folau.
Mahina scored 25 out of a possible 30 in the Nathan Buckley-designed kicking test, which equalled Western Bulldogs father-son selection Tom Liberatore's effort in Canberra.
He also led the attendees with 12.11 in the beep test.
The articles features a further run down on other stand out efforts. What has become clear as we track the progress through nations such as Fiji and Tonga is that in a short period of time, some fine athletes are having a crack at the game. Whether they become ‘full time’ players of footy in structured leagues is another question, or, whether they combine footy with Rugby or soccer or whatever else.
A recent article on Karmichael Hunt Jan 16, Fairfax “Hunt carries a torch for NRL” included an interesting comment from Karmichael.
''As for people saying it's about money, if that was the case I'd be overseas playing union in Japan or France. It's about the challenge.
''Even in my early days with the Broncos, I wanted to do things a bit differently. I didn't pigeon-hole myself to stereotypical full-back duties. I wanted to kick with both feet, tackle like a forward, run up like a forward and ball play like a No. 7. So I stayed behind after training to practise everything.''
Food for thought, that the AFL is certainly doing the right thing in exposing kids even if from a Rugby or soccer background to the game.
Some of the South Pacific's best