Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
When a footy evening includes a video presentation depicting the Japanese tsunami, Christchurch earthquake and a reminder of a murdered team manager on the eve of a tournament; it's obvious it's not your run of the mill footy evening. The International Cup Gala Dinner on Friday August 26th paid tribute to two memebers of the Japanese Samurai's lost earlier in the year, and to the NZ Hawks who attended despite the Christchurch earthquake - and of course the tragic death of PNG's Peter Meli.
Although the IC11 Grand Final the following day officially concluded the competition, for most teams the Gala Dinner was the opportunity to relax and soak up the camaraderie of international footy, as the players and officials let their hair down, relaxed, mingled, and sung and danced just a little.
Highlights of the night included the naming of the World Teams, the DFAT player of the tournament nominations and the awarding of International Merit Awards.
The Crown Palladium room was filled to capacity and the host for the evening, Melbourne Radio station Triple M and Channel 7 personality Hamish McLachlan (also brother of the AFL’s Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan), took to the stage and quickly discovered that this would not be a quiet crowd as the French in particular proved very spirited from the outset. McLachlan switched between Timor, US and Irish jumpers and worked his way through a schedule aimed at recognising the top players of the tournament.
However, of special interest was the inaugural International Merit Awards aimed at recognising the efforts of volunteers abroad who have in many cases built and sustained footy, clubs, leagues, and tournaments from the ground up and for whom the current state of the game internationally and the growing status of the International Cup itself are testament.
Kevin Sheedy was called upon to present the awards; and a fine choice too, having toured the world of footy as an AFL Ambassador back in 2008.
The International Merit Awards recipients as follows:
1 – Rich Mann (USAFL)
2 – Greg Everett (AFL Canada)
3 – Ciaran O’Hara (Ireland and AFL Europe)
4 – Paul ‘Plugger’ O’Keefe (USAFL)
5 – Jim Campion (DAFL)
6 – Scott Reid (AFL Samoa and AFL PNG)
Many WFN readers will know more about some of these fellows than I could summarise here, through personal experience and also appearing in our pages over the years. WFN would like to congratulate the recipients for their efforts and well deserved recognition from the AFL. Rich Mann spoke on behalf of his fellow recipients.
Each nation was able to nominate a DFAT player of the tournament, each of whom was brought to the main stage.
Mens DFAT awards:
Canada – Steve Rutledge
China – Zhao Liu Tao
Denmark – Christian Rose
East Timor – Carlos Britto
Fiji – Alipate Navuso
France – Cyril Jan Mahamad
GB – Sean Walton
India – Jay Himat
Ireland – Kevin O’Brien
Japan – Ken Sato
Nauru – Johnny Dagiaro
NZ – Andrew Marsden
Peace – Nimrod Vromen
PNG – Ali Pinda
South Africa – Khaya Sikiti
Sweden – Eric Sahlin
Tonga – Peni Mahina
USA – Brent Mergen
Womens DFAT awards:
Australia IM – Rebecca Phillips
Canada – Margo Legault
Ireland – Marie Keating
PNG – Taiva Lavai
USA – Eileen Geoghegan
‘Best and Fairest’ Player of the Tournament Awards:
With PNG’s Stanis Susuve winning in the Men’s Division and USA Freedom skipper Judith Stein winning in the Women’s Division, with the winners presented by Peace Team coach and AFL legend Robert ‘Dipper’ Dipierdomenico.
With 3 goals in the Grand Final, PNG’s Susuve also nudged out South Africa’s Steven Matshane for the leading goal kicker in the Men's division, and in the Women’s Marie Keating of Ireland took the honours.
The eventful and spirited evening concluded with players from some of the nations providing their own entertainment. Debuting nation Tonga took to the stage and sang and performed the Tongan Sipi Tau. The Kiwi’s followed with their Haka. South Africa and the Peace Team in turn sang and danced, whilst the French provided their own form of entertainment.
An unexpected highlight for the competing teams were special footy cards made up, with 3 players from each of the 23 competing teams.
All in all a great conclusion to the biggest and best International Cup so far.
World Footy News