Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
While the Papua New Guinea mens team - the Mosquitos - are the reigning champions the story is somewhat different for their female compatriots - the Flames - who are making a return to the International Cup after participating in the first ever women's division in 2011. In that competition the Flames were out gunned by the Irish, Canadian and US sides. The sole victory over the Australian Indigenous and Multicultural side. 6 years on and the Flames will be looking to make their presence more well known on the field.
The Country and Australian Football
While Rugby League is the ‘National Sport’ of Papua New Guinea, Australian Football has also has a long heritage and Australian Football was arguably the number one code post WWII and up to the 1970s. As Ron Barassi having visited PNG twice in the previous 18 months where Mr Dick Kidby (with assistance from the North Melbourne Football Club) had been appointed full-time national GM of PNG football; Barassi opined in the press in April 1978 that even after the visit to Ireland 10 years earlier that PNG was the place with the best chance of developing Australian Football. He noted the nation was evenly divided between soccer, rugby and Australian Football. In his words “We would be crazy if we didn’t make every effort to develop a formidable football force in that country”.
Papua New Guinea has been playing international football for a long time. From fielding an U/17 team in the Australian Teal Cup in 1979 to competing and winning at the Arufura Games during the 1990s. This was despite a stagnation in Australian support during the 1980s which in fairness was a challenging financial period for the VFL and its clubs with a national league seen as a priority – that and revenue from selling licences!
AFL PNG falls under the development eye of AFL Development Manager South Pacific, Mr Ben Drew. There are 2 Boards who run AFL PNG. Key stakeholders include the AFL and the PNG Government. In the past 12 months funding has been accessed via the Australian Governments Pacific Sports Partnership (PSP) to put towards improving governance in each (South Pacific Country – in particular, PNG, Fiji and Nauru) country; train & educate community leaders and staff; Hire more Development staff;provide more equipment & also provide more expert training & Education. “With great connection & support from AFLQLD, utilising their staff to provide training in program delivery we have seen a huge increase in knowledge and professionalism of all South Pacific staff & Volunteers at all levels across each country.”
With respect to AFL PNG specifically and a focus on the 3 years since their 2014 IC success which in itself was building upon a strong growth in the game across the regions of PNG along with improved pathways including the AFL PNG Academy program. Ben Drew worked closely with key PNG stakeholders to oversee the governance focussed evolution via a strong Board directing attention to Senior Community Football across PNG along with the national opportunities via the Mozzies and the Womens Flames. A separate Board is focussed on the development and underage programs; including hiring 20 Full time PNG staff to deliver programs across 8 regions. The two Boards have helped produce a huge increase in participation from the introductory Niukick program to the Senior Community Footy across the nation.
Queensland is a vital cog in the Talent Pathway with both boys and girls sides competing at various times in QLD state or regional championships. Under 14 and Under 16 PNG girls teams have regularly travelled to QLD to compete in state carnivals including the 2016 AFL Queensland Youth Girls State Championships. The PNG Flames includes a number of players with QLD experience in Brigid and Alison Gaur (Aspley), Eliana Kaputin (Zillmere) and Miriam Agita (Townsville).
Strengths and Weaknesses The comparison to the USA Freedom is a fairly clear illustration of the key physical weakness. On average the US side is 9 cm taller (172 to 163) and 10 kg heavier (69 to 59). However - the Flames have youth, and perhaps pace on their side - an average age of around 21 compared to the more senior Freedom at 31.
Players to Watch Taiva Lavai made the 2011 World Team and returns on the verge of her 24th birthday a more mature player. She will be keen to set the example.Look out also for the inspirational coach Johnathan Ila.
PNG Flames - IC Schedule
The Flames will be well tested - drawn against the debutant Crusaders and then matched against the Freedom before taking on the Irish powerhouse.
|1||European Crusaders||Sun Aug 6||12:15 pm||Royal Park - Ransford Oval|
|2||USA||Wed Aug 9||10:45 am||Wesley College, Glen Waverley|
|3||Ireland||Sun Aug 13||2:00 pm||Hallam|
PNG Flames - IC17 Squad
The Flames will be lead on field by Prudence Sindriwen from the Bomana Cats. Coach Jonathan Ila and team manager is Josephine Ila.
|1||Brigid GAUR||17/6/1998||150 cm||61 kg||Aspley|
|2||Alison GAUR||30/5/1992||155 cm||62 kg||Aspley|
|3||Vaine LAI||22/11/1996||156 cm||60 kg||Koboni|
|4||Tonok HEDWICK||27/7/1992||156 cm||60 kg||Gerehu Magpies|
|5||Lilah Esther MALABAG||3/9/2000||157 cm||54 kg||Oilmin Kokofas|
|6||Alice ALOIS||28/9/1996||159 cm||56 kg||Koboni|
|7||Valerie MAI||9/9/1997||159 cm||61 kg||Bomana Cats|
|8||Manicha METTAKAISAVA||4/12/1992||160 cm||55 kg||Oilmin Bombers|
|9||Miriam AGITA||9/9/1998||160 cm||63 kg||Townsville|
|10||Virginia KIWA||18/1/1996||160 cm||62 kg||St.Kevin’s|
|11||Alphonsa BAI||7/12/1989||160 cm||65 kg||Gerehu Magpies|
|12||Warambina ANITA||6/7/1995||160 cm||56 kg||Salle Dogs|
|14||Vanessa PISEP||4/10/1997||162 cm||54 kg||Salle Dogs|
|15||Taiva LAVAI||16/9/1993||162 cm||51 kg||Koboni|
|16||Bauwase MAUREEN||16/9/1988||162 cm||65 kg||Lamana Dockers|
|18||Fatima SOVARA||27/9/1996||163 cm||66 kg||Gerehu Magpies|
|19||Jacqueline MCDOA||26/11/1994||164 cm||65 kg||Mt Hagen|
|20||Florentyna RAY||11/7/2000||165 cm||60 kg||Bomana Cats|
|21||Vincensiana KAIPU||7/8/1999||166 cm||52 kg||Lamana Dockers|
|22||Piwen KUTAN||1/11/1998||166 cm||63 kg||Kavieng|
|23||Jessley MELI||24/3/1998||166 cm||50 kg||Salle Dogs|
|24||Eliana KAPUTIN||20/5/1991||166 cm||63 kg||Zillmere|
|25||Prudence SINDRIWEN||17/1/1991||167 cm||50 kg||Bomana Cats|
|26||Phyllia PISEP||19/1/1999||167 cm||50 kg||Salle Dogs|
|27||Ruth CUTTING||21/12/1998||167 cm||58 kg||Manunda Hawks|
|28||Samantha BANDI||22/5/2001||170 cm||68 kg||Cranbourne|
|29||Iki LOREEN||24/4/1992||170 cm||75 kg||Oilmin Kokofas|
|30||Elma EMIL||7/4/1995||175 cm||60 kg||Koboni|
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