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AFL International Cup Grand Final 2017: Why did the Mozzies win?

International Cup 2017

Why in the Battle of Opposites Papua New Guinea Mosquitoes defeated New Zealand Hawks

PNG 4.5 (29) NZ 4.4 (28)

A Cup of Mosquito Euphoria

Why did the Mosquitoes win?


How was this battle between a small, fast and dangerous insect and a high-flying bird of prey, the Mosquito and the Hawk, played out?
Why did the Mosquitoes beat the Hawks in the grand final, winning 4 5 29 to 4 4 28, by one point?
In part, it was luck and more or less ability to score from shots for goal and, even earlier, a kick for goal after the siren which determined the finalists.

Can we reveal the answer in this battle of several opposites, which characterise the International Cup itself?

One, New Zealand, is closer and developed, with few major cities, and a long history of footy, as well as a large pattern of cross-‘Ditch’ (aka trans-Tasman) transmigration. A Caucasian predominance, with some Pacific, Asian and European influence, has joined with affluence to produce bigger and taller bodies.

The other, Papua New Guinea, is farther away, an undeveloped country, with difficult travel between its major points and in footy a predominance of smaller, but faster, players.

Auckland is a mere 2623 kms away from the MCG with fairly frequent flights. In contrast, Port Moresby is 3156 kms from the G, with no direct flights, only indirect ones via Brisbane and Sydney.

How important is the proximity factor?

Ireland is the only distant country which features at the top of division one, although this is also supported by the number of players living in Australia. In fact, IC17 has restricted the number of Australian based players in a squad.

Participating in the Cup is expensive. How many of the best players from Canada or Japan or Nauru or South Africa or France did not run onto Ransford or McAlister ovals in Royal Park due to the fact that they had neither the money nor the time?

How important are local connections? Connections with footy clubs in Australia, from country and suburban to AFL clubs?

This welcome development has seen links between Golden Square in Bendigo and India, now followed up by Essendon. This has involved Golden Square visiting India. Local club connections may be the key element in the future in strengthening footy around the world. In an ideal world, clubs would be linked to all the overseas countries where footy is played by over 100,000 people.

What is the biggest factor in success?

Is it
• proximity,
• Australian-based players,
• AFL-linked players as with three Hawks linked to St Kilda and Sandringham,
• ability to train together (often prevented by geographic dispersal of players),
• coaching of skills and strategies,
• ability to afford to come to the IC17, including the role of sponsorship,
• luck when it comes down to percentage, for it was the last kick of the day when New Zealand defeated Ireland by a goal after the siren which put PNG into the Grand Final
• ability to play on the slightly smaller grounds in Royal Park,
• ability to cope with the joys of Melbourne weather in August
• and the age profile of teams and years of experience playing footy, including previous IC experience?

Is it one of these or something else?

In Division 2 of the men’s competition the skill and system of the Japan Samurais dominated the German Eagles on the wide open spaces of Elgar Park North, but they could not compete with the eventual Cup winners, Croatia, on the tighter spaces of Royal Park ovals, before the Croatians went on to defeat Germany in the grand final.

At the MCG, between the Mosquitoes and the Hawks, a game won by one point could have gone either way, especially after Kiwi forward Barclay Miller hit the post from close range.

Did the sun lift the mood of the Mosquitoes after the earlier rainstorm? Or was the fact that half the team had played in the last IC17 grand final a key factor?

Or was there a crucial difference between the two teams which fought out a gritty encounter? Like an AFL match, there were high level skills and equally high level errors, due to the pressure of an often congested game. 

For bad, rather than good, most IC coaches now play the same AFL forward press which led to a scrappy game.

At the MCG, the International Cup grand final was followed by a game of scrimmageball, when Geelong ‘won ugly’ against Collingwood, according to coach Chris Scott. But that is another story.

Despite the smaller size of most players, the PNG rucks, particularly double goal-kicker, Amua Muzza Pirika, Jeffrey Namete, John Ikupu and Clyde Pullah, managed to nullify a potential NZ advantage from stoppages of the height of the Hawks’ 192 cm Ty Smith.





















With the Hawks only one point ahead (4.4.28 to 4.3.27) at three quarter time, the game could have gone either way.

Only when I went to the happy warriors victory rooms after the match, armed with SLR and high quality media lanyard (big ID pass, two straps not one) did I understand the difference.

First, there was coach David Lake, whose dedication shone through as his job continued in the victors’ rooms.

Thoughtful in victory, PNG Coach David Lake.

Second, was the sponsor, who had made it possible for the players to come south and was always ready to do every job around the team.
Third, was the PNG government, which was represented by the chairman of AFL PNG, John Ma’O Kali, the Secretary of the Department of

Personnel Management, who came to the rooms with a message from the Prime Minister.

On this day, however, the camera did not lie. The photos of the celebrating players, except for 16 year old man of the match, 16 year old ‘Ace’, Hewago Paul Oea , told the story.

The Mosquitoes were no longer small and light ‘insects’. They had been in the gym and had a strength, and presumably a fitness, which meant that when they threw themselves at the ball in dispute on the ground, they left the Hawks behind.

When they cleared the ball, their running did not stop in the last quarter when both sides were struggling after a long and hard campaign as well as the demands of the granny.

Upper body strength was the real difference reinforced by running fitness.

Strong Upper Bodies Deliver Joy

Next, the PNG government is about to investigate elite performance training in South Africa.

A sporting move to put PNG on the international map.

IC20 teams beware.

In 2020, the Mosquitoes will be back, fitter, stronger and more skilled than ever.

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AFL International Cup Grand Final 2017: Why did the Mozzies win? | 5 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
AFL International Cup Grand Final 2017: Why did the Mozzies win?
Authored by: Brett Northey on Tuesday, August 22 2017 @ 10:46 am ACST

I realise you're looking at the cultural and economic reasons behind the win as much as on field, but here are my on field reasons.

Luck and speed.

Any team that wins by less than a kick can consider themselves lucky (just as NZ would've been if they had won). But for an umpiring decision either way (or NZ's Sucu not doing a hamstring) the result can swap around.

And speed was the other factor. When NZ got any space at all they used the ball much better than PNG (in general) and set up some nice chains of passing to score goals through key forwards.

But it was rare to get that space, as every time the ball hit the ground it was swarmed by Mozzies. So often it was 3 on 1, and even if the Kiwi player got there first and remained composed they didn't seem to have any support and eventually turned it over, either at the contest or with a rushed kick.

As well as speed to get to the contest perhaps there was extra fitness and gut running. Certainly PNG's intensity was amazing for the entire match. They also had some very fast chains where the ball whizzed around to set up inside 50s. Having said that, when they did slow down a little and look for team mates with short and medium passes they looked quite skilful and even more effective.

I know their speed is seen as a strength, but I'd love to see PNG learn a bit of controlled, tempo footy. I suspect they would be even more dangerous. That and some cleaner hands when trying to take possession, so often they were clear, especially the first quarter, and didn't take the ball with them they were in such a hurry. No doubt greasy conditions didn't help.

I was a little disappointed in NZ. As I said they looked good in space but didn't seem to have the running capacity to get enough numbers to the ball, and they didn't have quite the size in key positions that you might expect (think Padaig Lucey and Mike Finn at Ireland) to exploit PNG's lack of size (on that note, though I haven't checked, I think PNG was bigger than past ICs).

If that sounds a little critical it's just that I love international footy and I'm impatient for it to improve as quickly as possible - I have a medium term dream of an AFL club being based in Auckland. Speaking of improving standards...

I loved "Ace" Hewago Paul Oea's class, he was very busy and clean, his 2nd quarter especially. Good to see that he worked the full length of the ground too, including helping foil an NZ goal from the goalsquare. For influence I had him only slightly behind Gideon Simon, who was prolific and classy for 4 quarters. If Ace doesn't get ahead of himself and gets the right support then I think we may have found our first born and bred PNG player who will play senior footy for an AFL club (there's been a few near misses, and Brisbane Lions star Mal Michael was mostly raised in Australia).

Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL International Cup Grand Final 2017: Why did the Mozzies win?
Authored by: Harley Vague on Tuesday, August 22 2017 @ 11:21 pm ACST

N.Z. play a lot more structured style of football. They controlled the centre corridor and used the open spaces well when allowed. The PNG certainly mixed things up. They seem to have been coached to a higher level but still lack the talls that would seal the deal. The ball was rebounding around a lot but generally the Mosquitoes had the better of the ground play. They should have sealed the deal when running into an open goal from close in. The Mosquitoes should have also looked at the clock and known all they had to do was to kick the ball out to the wing as there wasn't enough time to bring it back even if uncontested.

AFL International Cup Grand Final 2017: Why did the Mozzies win?
Authored by: Rory Slater on Wednesday, September 13 2017 @ 06:19 am ACST

Hello Brett
I trust your medium term dream never comes to fruition and given PNG's performance yet again, if the cringe international persuasion are to be at all fair, I believe they should push to have PNG resourced at least as much as NZ is.
As I have often stated here, if our code is truly embraced by countries i.e. NZ, from the ground up, rather than the hard sell top down criteria you would implement, then there could be a case for inclusion in perhaps, an NEAFL but that would seem to be light years away if this years WC standard is any indication.
For heavens sake, the AFL tout themselves as the true indigenous national comp yet insult true domestic footy demographics i.e. the nations capital, Tassie and the NT, by telling us we are unviable, in the same breath announcing NZ as the next frontier for expansion. What a load of hard sell commercial rhetoric on their part since this is only about television growth pure and simple Brett which I expect those i.e. yourself, continue to leverage off.
Your vision, to prematurely gift the unmeritorious heathen Kiwis a place in our coveted AFL, is disingenuous and disenfranchising of the codes devoted and so long as you continue to promote your vision, I will feel compelled to refute it.

AFL International Cup Grand Final 2017: Why did the Mozzies win?
Authored by: Brett Northey on Wednesday, September 13 2017 @ 11:58 am ACST

Rory I'm always happy to entertain robust debate but your comments are pretty much racist but I'll let them stand because they reflect so poorly on you and therefore undermine your own arguments.

As for Tassie and the ACT, my dream outcome would be the AFL announce new AFL clubs based in Tassie and Auckland simultaneously. Previously I didn't believe the ACT could support an AFL side financially and in terms of crowds (and Tassie has always had similar doubts) but I do note the ACT is growing rapidly these days so perhaps there is some future prospect.

Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL International Cup Grand Final 2017: Why did the Mozzies win?
Authored by: Harley Vague on Wednesday, September 13 2017 @ 02:35 pm ACST

I'm glad you commented Rory, because that forced me to do a little research.

Firstly, I don't see why any development should be mutually exclusive. Secondly, we have to acknowledge that every "market' is different. Thirdly, one man's freedom fighters are another mans terrorist. I don't see why the push into NZ schools is seen as a "hard sell' whilst the push into PNG schools is seen as "enlightening". the object is still the same - to benefit community football.

You mention the NEAFL which is a very good point.Why not a PNG side in AFLQ or a NZ side in NSWAFL graduating to an eventual NEAFL side. The NEAFL has no restrictive nationality requirements like the I.C. so any side can be bolstered as required.

Tasmania and the N.T. are not an options - they are regions. Population Hobart 112k, Launceston 86k,, Darwin 142k, Alice Springs 30k. Auckland 1,415k. Port Moresby 400k. Teams play out of cities not regions or even towns.

Of course television growth is an important part of the model.
there are now four AFL teams where were none.

As a matter of interest how would you proceed with PNG ?