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IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji

International Cup 2011

We now look at one of the International Cup's debutantes, Fiji. Everyone is familiar with such AFL talent as Nic Naitanui, David Rodan and Alipate Carlisle, all of Fijian descent, and the South Pacific nation will be keenly watched to see what fresh talent it brings to the competition.

The Tribe has spoken

IC11 will not just be their first attempt at International Cups but their first senior matches altogether. As such the team needed a name. That was left to the players, their families and friends. A few suggestions had been made and following a training session, AFL Fiji invited all the players and families to attend a small meeting and conducted a simple vote. This was met with immediate enthusiasm. The vote was unanimous in fact - the Fiji Tribe.

The Country and Australian Football

Fiji is located nearly 3000 km east of Australia, with some of its nearest neighbours being Samoa and Tonga. A series of islands, the total population of about 850,000 is mainly Melanesian (and some Polynesian) with a significant minority of Indian descent. At the highest levels the country has an uneasy relationship with Australia due to a series of Fijian military coups over-throwing elected governments.

With the three AFL players mentioned above, fans have been keen to see Aussie Rules get started in Fiji. A few efforts were made before this latest more successful push. Leading the way from Australia have been David and Carla Rodan and in-country there have been a growing number of locals getting involved, and now an AusAID development officer, Glen Butler.

Fiji does have a recent junior development program and showed their potential finishing third in the 2010 AFL Oceania Youth Cup, playing as Fiji Power.

Glen Butler will be the Tribe's assistant coach and runner, and AFL Development Manager Lawrie Woodman is their senior coach. A 9-a-side competition was initially used to prepare the players and Glen says, "They naturally play a quick, high tempo brand of footy. But they are starting to link up well now, controlling the ball better in the last few weeks".

Strengths and Weaknesses

The squad has a core group including players from the youth Oceania Squad from the last two years in addition to some players who have been involved since 2009. The remainder have come through the local competition and selection trials this year. So the team will perhaps be more experienced than first expected. And we all expect an athletic squad. Butler agreed, "The squad has a number of tall/key position players but are versatile. I am confident we have several players that fill any position on the ground".

No doubt a lot of the players will also have strength and good tackling skills given Rugby Union's popularity in Fiji, and athleticism is expected, but inexperience will still be a major limiting factor, including little exposure to full field footy.

Players to watch

Butler offered these thoughts:

  • Sulio Magiti; Probably the shortest in the squad by a fair way, but love watching how he goes about the game. Only started playing a few months back but was noticeable straightaway. A goal sneak and will be thrown in the midfield as he always seems to find the ball.
  • Alipate Navuso (C); Again only started playing earlier this year, a natural leader and reads the play very well. Very versatile player who could play key position or in the midfield.
  • Dylan Wolfgramm; A big boost and has been playing in Australia during the 2011 season.
  • Mesake Koroi Jnr.; will be another player to watch and Dylan's cousin. Strong skills, has played predominantly midfield but has been thrown forward as another goal kicking option.

Form Guide and Bottom Line

Fiji have yet to play a senior match in Australian football, so do not feature in the World Footy News rankings. They are seeded 14th by the AFL, and IC11 will be a baptism of fire.

Any win will be a bonus but international footy fans will be keeping a close eye on The Tribe's opening day match against Japan in Group 5. The Samurai have not had a lot of wins at international level and usually have a high turnover due to many players being University students who become tied to their careers. As such this could be one game that goes against the seedings and would propel Fiji into Division 1 and a tough fortnight of footy. But if as seeded they do find themselves in Division 2 then they will be looking to make and possibly even win that competition.

Even assistant coach Glen Butler reflects the uncertainty, "I think we could surprise a few teams, but still difficult to know what to expect".

This author's prediction: grand finalists in Division 2, but a dark horse to make Division 1 (in which case likely to finish 12th).

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IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji
Authored by: sverik25 on Saturday, July 23 2011 @ 10:47 am ACST

Will definitely be interesting to see how Fiji go at their first International Cup and I will look forward to seeing them play. Does anyone think Fiji will make it into Division 1?

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IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji
Authored by: Nathan Tyerman on Saturday, July 23 2011 @ 10:58 am ACST

I Believe Fiji will just make div 1 and should go pretty well. Interesting jumper, would have thought it would have been similar to there flag.

GO FIJI!!

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IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji
Authored by: Brett Northey on Saturday, July 23 2011 @ 02:42 pm ACST

Yeah will all come down to the Fiji vs Japan match I expect.  Nauru should be too good for either of them.

And for those turning their thoughts to tipping, don't forget our IC11 tipping comp:

http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/2011071614451183

 

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji
Authored by: kolja51 on Sunday, July 24 2011 @ 03:12 am ACST

 sexy jumper. GB, take note, no white square around IC or AFL logo

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IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji
Authored by: Brett Northey on Wednesday, August 17 2011 @ 11:39 pm ACST

Kolja, I love what you do in Croatia, but dude, get over GB's jumper!  They played really well in it against Canada, and really bad against NZ.  I reckon it might be the man in the jumper not the jumper itself, and the man in the opposing jumper.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji
Authored by: Brett Northey on Wednesday, August 17 2011 @ 11:43 pm ACST

I reckon you might be right semisi.  Fiji or France.  Might come down to who has the most fit men by the end of the tournament.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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IC11 Preview - The Tribe is calling... from Fiji
Authored by: semisi on Wednesday, August 17 2011 @ 11:26 pm ACST

After losing to Japan on their first match and winning on their second one I am confident that Fiji will top the Division Two.

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