Contributed by: Stephen Alomes
Two national teams making their first appearance at the International Cup, Fiji and France, made it through to the Grand Final of the smaller division 2 (effectively 13th and 14th overall), remarkably close to the consolidated predictions of the worldfootynews.com team (12th and 14th).)
Who would prevail? Both countries inevitably have some players with rugby backgrounds and that would make an impact on the character of the final.
The Fijians, who had begun training later, had advantages, including an AusAID development officer for the AFL Glen Butler assisting with their training in Suva. In fact, they all were based in Suva, except for three players elsewhere in Fiji and two playing in Australia.
The French gained strength from three Australian based players and French players with the Montreal Saints in Canada, even as two of their countrymen living in Sweden played for the Elks. However, players sourced from nine teams from Mt Lawley to Montreal, Strasbourg and Paris to Toulouse formed less of a unit than the Fijians. But with great passion the French most certainly played for each other.
The Fijians, like the Nauruans, play the run-on game which now produces winners in international Australian football. Fortunately, the forward press and the flood have not yet taken over and turned the game into "congest-a-ball".
After the French dominated the first minutes of the opening stanza, kicking the first goal of the game, the Fijians began to take over kicking the next five goals in a dominant second quarter. It wasn't that France weren't getting the ball, but they couldn't string enough clean possessions to score.
Strong marking, clean ball handling, and sharp passing characterised the Fijian forward moves. In contrast, the French team marked and kicked with lesser efficiency.
The big and strong-marking Fijian Tribe player, Mesake Saqanamua, won the medal for the best player in the Grand Final.
The big difference between many of the IC11 sides has been the scoreboard influence of one or two goalkickers, who could finish off their forward moves. In this match, Fiji had three finishers, who kicked multiple goals, Mesake Koroi with three goals and Frank Stolz and Laijiasa Bolenaivalu with two each. France had one dual goal-kicker, Jean-Francois Bouron.
Despite not being name in the official best players Dylan Wolfgramm was again silky smooth and a midfield marshall for Fiji. But the French managed to restrict his run with tenacious tackling. And despite Fiji's tall, muscular physiques that are the envy of other nations, Le Bleus competed in the air with some tall timber of their own.
The second division of the IC has produced a football mix, good football and other moments which confirm that the players are developing their skills, rather than polishing them. At times, during this match, particularly when the umpires wrongly threw the whistle away, a kind of rolling maul resulted, the product of the commitment of both teams and perhaps the rugby influence on some players.
A theatrical note bringing down the curtain on the International Cup 2011
The IC11 was a footy tournament, and a carnival and a festival. The French have brought new modes of celebrating, including the millipede or worm body surf as a forest of arms propel a surfing player along the line. The International Cup ended with a celebratory occasion for that innovation, even in defeat. The surfers included some of the victorious Fijian players, Canada’s Northern Light players, the umpires in orange and AFL Ambassador Brett Kirk.
Men’s Division Two Grand Final
Fiji 9.8 (62) def France 3.3 (21)
Fiji – M. Koroi 3, F. Stolz 2, L. Bolenaivalu 2, P. Bilitaki , D. Wolfgramm , R. Niulevu , K. Vakacegu
France – J. Bouron 2, M. Trivdic
Fiji – M. Koroi, S. Loki, L. Bolenaivalu, P. Bilitaki, A. Tabualevu, B. Rokotuitai
France – W. Tessier, M. Trivdic, C. Vanni, J. Bouron, P. Thomas Finnsson, A. Schieber
World Footy News