World Footy News will be highlighting as many aspects of the International Cup (IC17) as possible over the course of the event, including player profiles. First up is veteran Fijian defender, Nagasavulavula Sovuta.
1. Where is home and who is your home club?
My home is Ra but I’m living in Raiwai in Fiji. My local club is Raiwaiqua.
2. How many years have you been involved in Australian Rules footy?
I started playing football in 2011 and have been involved until now. I was also involved in the creation of the Raiwaiqa Bulldogs club. We won our first AFL Fiji premiership in 2014.
The Lions are coming to Australia with one goal in mid – to roar loudly and look to continue their climb of recent years to take the Division 1 title. Finishing fourth at the IC14 event was something to be proud of, but not enough. This time they have an even bigger fish to fry.
The Road To IC17:
According to AFL SouthAfrica, “the road to the IC17 started immediately after the IC14. Fresh new talent and some of the talented kids who were too young to participate in the IC14, as well as the senior players were invited to camps that made sure that everyone’s skill set is progressing.”
“These players participate in our national premiership known as footyWILD Premier League. The league has eight clubs ( Divines, Bluebirds, Warriors, Super Owls, Hurricanes, Giant Bees, Wildcats and Platinum Buffaloes) and we also have Provincial League - sort of like interstate league made up of four provinces (KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng, Western Cape and North West Province). Finally, we have the footyWILD Under 14 championships. They involve the kids we train everyday via mass participation. So the elite kids participate and they feed the senior teams depending on player development.”
Japan has the oldest non-English speaking league in the world that kicked off in 1987 following an exhibition match in Tokyo between Essendon and Hawthorn. The oldest club is Senshu Power, a university based team that was one of the foundation teams of Japanese football along with Keio and Waseda universities that had scraped together teams to play the curtain raiser to the exhibition match.
The Samurai, Japan’s national team has a long history, having played “internationals” since the late 1990’s participating in the Arafura Games in Darwin, Australia several times. Japan has contested all International Cups, their best placing being eighth in IC08, although IC14 was probably their most successful winning three from five matches, enabling them to rise from 19th to 16th in the WFN World Rankings.
Although they are one of Europe's older footy national sides, with a domestic scene dating back over 20 years to the mid-1990s, the German Eagles are making their International Cup debut this year.
The Eagles have made big strides forward in the past few years, achieving 3rd place at last year's European Championships after narrowly defeating Sweden in their final match. This year their experience against other European nations, including Div 1 outfits such as Great Britain, means they look to be serious contenders in Division 2 of the IC17.
The Croatian Knights will make their first appearance at an International Cup. As reigning Euro Cup champions, the Knights have already proven their prowess as an Australian Rules football force, though an 18 per side format will provide different challenges. Their Head Coach, Josip Kravar, details the Croatian team’s story.
The Story Of Croatian Footy: “The Croatian national team, also known as Croatian Knights, first started to play in 2006 when the team was made only from one club in Croatia - the Zagreb Hawks. Just after forming a second club in SANH (AAFC) the Knights had a bigger pool of players. In the first two years the Knights played in the CEAFL against Austria, Czech Republic and Finland.
Ireland were runners up in the 2014 International Cup and will be looking to return to Australia and retake the title.
History of Irish footy
The Australian Rules Football League of Ireland (ARFLI) was founded in 2000, but Aussie Rules actually came to Ireland in 1999 when squads in Belfast and Dublin recruited through the off season. The new Dublin Demons traveled to London in April, 2000 to take part in preseason matches with the British Australian Rules Football League (BARFL), and finished third out of 12 teams. The Demons then won a best-of-three series with the Belfast Redbacks to be crowned the first Irish footy premiers.
Michael Currane and Ciaran O hEeadhra both have their fingerprints all over Irish footy, as does Michael’s younger brother Brian, who is the Warriors head coach for IC17. Brian (along with Diarmuid Griffin) helped form the Leeside Lions over 15 years ago. Michael founded the European Australian Rules Football Council (EARFC) in early 2001 with the goal of developing the sport of Aussie Rules across the continent and strengthening ties between the already established leagues.
The following is a quick review of this author's thoughts on who might win the Women's Division at the 2017 International Cup.
Let's be honest, no one can really be confident about who will win this competition. Sure we can (and will) assume that Canada will play off against Ireland again, but with new teams and women's international footy still so young and vibrant it's hard to be confident. And that makes this event all the more exciting.
One expects the European Crusaders to struggle, with players drawn from very small leagues or one off teams across Europe. But who can be sure they won't bond and forge something special on this trip? And there's no history to tell us what the Pakistan Dragoons may produce, and we don't yet know how many of their players have experience in Aussie leagues.
The PNG Flames struggled last time they competed but that was 6 years ago, and with large numbers of men playing maybe the women have taken the game up in numbers too.
The Papua New Guinea mens team - the Mosquitos - are the reigning champions and return to Melbourne hoping to go back to back. With a proud history having competed in the tournament since its inception in 2002 - the Mosquitos have twice taken out the top prize. Their arch rivals have been Ireland and New Zealand. The Mozzies went down to Ireland in the first tournament. 2005 saw the Mozzies go down to New Zealand before revenge was gained with a win in 2008. 2011 again saw the Mozzies contest the final but falling short to Ireland.
And then there was 2014 - and a relatively young Mozzies squad where able to take on and overcome the Irish Warriors in a classic International Cup finale held under lights at the MCG. There were important moments and star performances - most notably from under size ruck John Ikupu whose late screamer and goal put the Mozzies 'nose' in front and from there a memorable win.
The following is a quick review of this author's thoughts on who might win the Men's Division 1 at the 2017 International Cup.
In terms of realistic prospects let's face it, there's the big 3 of PNG, Ireland and New Zealand, and then there's the rest. That's probably a bit harsh, and South Africa and the United States probably deserve a nod too. Between them, those 5 nations have filled the top 4 spots at all 5 international cups thus far. Are there any new challengers? I'm afraid not.
France and Fiji were first timers in Div 1 in 2014 and put up some good contests but were no match for the top sides. They should be increasingly competitive against the middle Div 1 sides but the matches against the top teams may still expose a large gap. Aussie Rules is high scoring and merciless in exposing a difference. Grabbing 1 or 2 wins each would be a great achievement.
Looking to the middle ranks of Div1 and Canada (juniors maturing), Great Britain (more regional teams) and the USA (metro leagues) have growing numbers to draw on and steady improvement is expected but probably not a major leap. Great Britain has a tough draw, while Canada and the USA face off in round 1 so probably only one will remain a Grand Final chance after that and will have to knock off one of the big 3 (PNG, Ireland, NZ) to make it.
Nauru are always dangerous but are probably limited by population size, I'm not expecting significant improvement. But take them lightly and you'll get a scare on the scoreboard to go with a physical battering on the field.
Vince Serci, Steve Froggatt and Mike Seversinsen may not be the biggest names in world footy – however they share a common link. All were members of the inaugural AFL International Cup World Team from the first tournament back in 2002 and all were members of the New Zealand Falcons side that officially placed 3rd (defeating Denmark into 4th).
The Kiwi Falcons are now Hawks; and while their team moniker has changed the New Zealand team has been a permanent fixture in all previous International Cup tournaments (1 of 8 nations to do so). And they will enter IC17 determined to reclaim the title.
The PNG Mosquitos and the Nauru Chiefs will play a warm up match on their way to Melbourne to compete for the 2017 International Cup. The two nations will meet again with a little more on the line on the 9th of August in the "Schools Round" at Mt Clear in Ballarat.
Both the Nauru Chiefs & PNG Mozzies are excited to invite the South Pacific Community & all footy people in Brisbane & the Gold Coast to the Beenleigh Buffalo's... AFC on Monday 31st July for a 6:15pm match between the 2 countries. FREE ENTRY! The battle of the Tribes - Tribal v Tribal #jointhetribe