AFL Fiji return to the international arena with the Senior mens team "Fiji Tribe" and their first ever senior womens squad the "Fiji Vonu" looking to fight for a spot in the final of the mens and womens fixture at the 2014 International Cup.
The Fiji Tribe hope to make it one better and take it to the premier squads such as 2011 Premiers Ireland, Pacific neighbours New Zealand and the powerful Papua New Guinea after claiming top spot in Division 2 at IC11.
Fiji Tribe return a more stronger, skillful but most of all experienced side compared to the side which claimed division 2 at IC14. The new look Fiji Tribe in the black and ocean blue strip look set to fire up IC14 and be a very competitive group of young men.
The Community Round fixture has been released. Clubs across Victoria were asked to apply to host these matches and the AFL reportedly had a very strong response. So much so that many clubs missed out and subsequently made their disappointment known to the AFL and requested to remain as backups should there be any issues with the selected clubs.
Matches will be played across suburban Melbourne and in regional centres including Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong. Some top quality matches that will majorly determine who will battle for the top few places in the mens tournament include the NZ vs USA match as Montrose, Ireland vs Nauru at the QEO in Bendigo and PNG vs South Africa at Geelong.
The three Women's Division matches will be played at Plenty, St Albans and Wheelers Hill.
Nauru is a tiny Pacific Island nation that has the distinction of being the only country in the world that has Australian Rules as its national sport (assuming that status is disputed/shared by several sports in Australia). The capital city is Yaren and the population is just 12,000 but the number of Australian football participants is around 300.
The the national team is known as the Nauru Chiefs and they are a team just below the top tier at the International Cup and capable of stepping up with an upset.
Road to the International Cup
After finishing IC08 in fourth place Nauru were probably a little disappointed to finish sixth at IC11. Coming up against PNG in their second Division 1 match was probably an unfortunate draw, which saw them play South Africa in the 5th/6th place playoff. On form most would have expected them to win that match but they were narrowly beaten by the South Africans. The Nauru domestic competition is made up of six teams that are based on AFL club names and colors. They are the Bulldogs, Magpies, Cats, Bombers, Kangaroos and Hawks. The Bulldogs have won the last three Grand Finals (and were Premiers and Champions in 2012 and 2013).
The senior competition is capped at 180 players (30 on each team). This number is set due to the number of volunteers available and all matches are played on one ground. AFL Nauru President Mathew Batsiua told us "We are thinking of expanding next year to 7 teams meaing that we will have a bye each week. The board will make a decision on that after the cup. Numbers (of people wanting to play) are definitely increasing hence the thinking of expanding to 7 teams next year as many players have been missing out."
The Irish Banshees are the defending International Cup Women's Division Champions. In 2011 they defeated allcomers including Canada in the Grand Final. Their squad was made up of players from Ireland but also a heavy contingent of Irish players who had been playing in Sydney.
There are almost 2 million people living in Australia who have Irish ancestry according to the 2001 Census, and approximately 250,000 Irish Citizens living in Australia. Australians with Irish ancestry form the second largest migrant group after the 6.3m people with English ancestry.
With strong ties like this, it is no wonder the Banshees will again be right at home when they visit Australia for the IC14, in fact less than half the team are making the long haul journey from Ireland with the rest of the squad already based in either Sydney or Melbourne. Having picked up most players through Australian Gaelic football connections the Banshees already have the building blocks for what will be an impressive line up once again.
The 2014 International Cup will have two Tongan teams – The Tonga Thunder men’s team and the Tongan Storm ladies team. The Thunder Guernsey is shown above and the Storm will have a matching uniform with the colours being blue and white. This will be the men’s second visit to the International Cup and the ladies debut.
The Country and Australian football
Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, south of Samoa. Also known as the Friendly Islands, it comprises 176 islands, 36 of them are inhabited. Tonga is the only monarchy in the Pacific since Taufa'ahau (King George) in 1875 declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy, he also gave Tonga its first constitution. In 1970 the former British protectorate acquired its independence.
With a total population of around 110,000, almost two-thirds of Tonga's population live on the main island Tongatapu, on which the capital city Nuku'alofa (pop. 25,000) is located.
The 2014 AFL International Cup women’s fixture has been released. Teams will play four round matches and have one bye. After the completion of the round matches teams will be ranked from 1 through to 7 based on their win/loss record and percentage.
The Grand Final will be played between the 2 highest ranked teams at Punt Rd Oval in Richmond on the 23rd of August.
Remaining teams will play off for minor placing’s - 3 v 4 and 5 v 6 with team 7 eliminated.
The USA and Canada will each enter two teams which are completely separate teams. Players representing Canada and USA can only be listed for one team and may not transfer between teams at any stage during IC14. As well as those four teams the Cup will be contested by Ireland, Tonga and Fiji after NZ, PNG and European teams were unable to field sides.
The Sweden Elks are gearing up for their third International Cup this year, and although a number of withdrawals from the original list will see them travel with a relatively young squad, a number of familiar faces will be making the trip.
Sweden are hoping to push up the rankings a bit, having finished 12th and 11th in their previous two IC appearances.
National coach Daniel McClaer spoke with WFN about the team's preparations and goals.
The AFL released the 2014 International Cup fixture today, less than forty days before the tournament kicks off. The 2014 International Cup will be played in Melbourne from August 9 to 23. There will be 18 men’s and seven women’s teams competing.
Men’s teams: Canada, China, Fiji, Finland, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Great Britain, India, Japan, Nauru, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Sweden, Tonga, USA.
New teams for IC14: Indonesia and Pakistan.
Returning after missing IC11: Finland.
Women’s teams: Canada – Northern Lights, Canada – Midnight Suns, Ireland, Fiji, Tonga, USA – Freedom, USA – Liberty.
For everyone keenly awaiting the final list of teams and match schedule for the 2014 AFL International Cup, we're pleased to report that the Men's competition draw is due to be released this Monday, 30th June. The Women's draw is due out later in the week.
Our latest information suggests there could be 18 men's teams (but not confirmed):
Canada, China, Fiji, Finland, France, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Ireland (defending champions), Japan, Nauru, New Zealand, Pakistan, PNG, South Africa, Sweden, Tonga, USA
And 5 countries represented in the Women's draw, but possibly with some countries fielding two sides:
Ireland (defending champions), Canada, USA, Tonga, Fiji
After months of speculation, the DAFL have officially confirmed that the Denmark Vikings national team will not be travelling to Australia for the 2014 International Cup. National team coach Páll Tómas Finnsson says that financial concerns meant that any side the Vikings could have sent would have been far from the best side possible.
"The decision was made in March as it became clear to us that we wouldn't be able to raise the necessary funds to cover our travel and accommodation costs. The estimated cost is 5,000 AUD per person, or a total of 160,000 AUD for a full team list of 28 players and four officials."
"Our players' football expenses have risen exponentially in the last few years. We participate in European tournaments such as the European Championships and the Euro Cup, and, in addition, many of our young talents have had the opportunity to represent their country in the European Legion's games against the AIS talent development squad and on the World XVIII Team."
"The absence of major sponsors means that these players, many of which are under 20 years old and still studying, have reached the maximum of what they can spend on the sport. We therefore had the choice of travelling to Australia with a limited squad or cancelling our participation. After careful consideration and with much regret, we decided on the latter."
The Vikings are one of Europe's oldest national sides, having competed regular against traditional rivals Great Britain and Sweden since the 1990s. They competed at the inaugural International Cup in 2002, where they finished 4th - their best result from any IC. They then withdraw from the 2005 edition, but returned in 2008 and 2011.