Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
The island nation of Fiji will debut at this year’s AFL International Cup. A nation that until a couple of years ago was unknown on the footy international scene – but, also a nation with a fair representation in the AFL by way of David Rodan, Alipate Carlile and Nic Naitanui. It is with great interest then that we’ve tracked the progress of AFL Fiji over the last couple of years and a name that has been at the forefront is the Wolfgramm family name.
Recently WFN caught up with one of the family and Fiji’s inaugural under 16s captain (from the 2009 Oceania Cup), Dylan Wolfgramm, who will be a key member of the Fijian squad in Sydney and Melbourne later this month.
WFN : Firstly, confirming that Dylan would be playing alongside brother Max, I asked how exciting the build-up has been for the Fijian International Cup debut.
DW : Yes I have been named in the Fiji IC11 Squad and proud that I have been named along with my brother Max. The build-up to the cup has been both a challenge and exciting in terms of this, being Fijis debut and that in finding support back in Fiji through sponsors and also the public to embrace and help carry AFL Fiji along.
WFN : Looking back in time, I congratulated Dylan about some of his achievements, such as captaining the first Fiji Under 16s squad in 2009, and asked Dylan whether it has taken on more significance given that it was the start of the journey that sees a senior Fijian squad in IC11.
DW : Thank you. It was a thrill and also humbling. For me personally, it was the kick start of my football career. I went on to be the Junior Development Officer for Fiji and help spread the code and I’m grateful that I got the chance to have been a part of the team.
Yes, from that AFL Fiji has grown immensely. To be a part of the first Oceania Cup and let alone host it, was a great privilege and a great move for AFL to be introduced into the country. Even though we finished without a win and last on the competition, it showed that the game was going to grow in Fiji and that showed the following year with our great performance in Tonga, finishing 3rd. AFL Fiji is going to be around a long time.
WFN : Tell us about the experiences of participating in the South Pacific squad in the 2010 NAB AFL under 16 Australian national championships. Including the recognition of being named Most Valuable Player of the tournament for the South Pacific.
DW : Being chosen in the South Pacific team was something I never thought would happen let alone play in the U16s Championships. The experience of travelling, training and playing with the boys who now are some of my closest friends was life changing, it showed that we can all come from different countries but still have one voice. Playing alongside Liam (Ackland), Peni (Mahini) and some of the other boys was very joyful and a fun experience. Being named MVP was again humbling and I was very proud that I represented Fiji and put them on the map. I was also part of the first ever Oceania team, that played a game up in Cairns against the U23s Local Superstars team as part of the Annual Pacific Summit meeting, playing alongside David Meli and Peter Labi, both who are on AFL lists. It is all very exciting and again I am proud to have gotten the chance to be a part of it. I thank AFL Asia-Pacific Development officer and mentor Andrew Cadzow for all of that.
WFN : How valuable was the experience of playing against some of the best under age talent within Australia, and on Australian soil?
DW : The experience of playing against the best U16s in the country was a privilege and great experience. It really set the platform for me personally, knowing the type of level I would have to be playing at if I wanted to make it big. To play on Aussie soil was another box ticked off and to play on GWS’S home ground was another accomplishment knowing that I would have played on a AFL ground.
WFN : Your father, (AFL Fiji Chairman) Dr. Robert Wolfgramm plays an important role in AFL Fiji and was lecturing at Monash University some years back – how important has he been in your playing Australian Football?
DW : My dad has been a big importance in me playing Aussie rules. I can’t say enough for him but the backbone of the support has been my mother Lupe Wolfgramm. She is my number one fan (as mums are) and I’m very proud to have parents like them. They have both guided me in the right directions to where I have to get in Aussie rules. The important thing I guess is having them there for me and knowing that they will always support me in whatever I strive for.
WFN : Via the David Rodan Cup and also other promotions and visits, there must be a great benefit for AFL in Fiji to leverage off the likes of Rodan, Carlile and Naitanui.
DW : Yes, having David, Alipate and Nic spearhead our campaign to help introduce AFL and promote the games has been a great thing for AFL in Fiji. They have helped immensely and much credit goes to them. To have them to look up to has been a great privilege and also a big help. I now have a goal of one day to be able to play on David. But they have been a big attraction in terms of attracting new players to the code.
Part 2 sees Dylan hit the field in suburban Melbourne's powerful Essendon District Football League, in the presence of players such as Scott Lucas, Chris Johnson, Marty Pask, Aisake O'hAilpin and variously Scott Harding, Jason Akermanis and this weekend perhaps Wayne Carey.
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