Rugby League's Auckland Warriors’ Shaun Johnson was nearly lost to AFL when he attracted the interest of scouts in 2006. Having been tagged as the next Benji Marshall he is obviously seen as a huge talent in the 13 a side game.
Now 21, the then 16 year old was playing Australian football for the NZ U 16 side at the Barassi Cup in Canberra. Not only did he play but he received the award as NZ’s best at the international tournament. After the carnival in Canberra, Johnson toured the set-up at the Sydney Swans, who had lost that year's AFL grand final to the West Coast by one point under coach Paul Roos.
Across the first weekend of September, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Richard Marles, was in the Solomon Islands. The Australian High Commission in Honiara released a press release last week stating that Marles met with young Solomon Islands (AFL) footy players, coaches and members of the SIAFL committee. By itself, this is nice, but, on the basis of a gradual build up, Richard Marles in the Solomons is a sign of a growing interest in footy from Australian political circles.
It's that time of the year, the sides that have dropped out of contention begin the early announcement of list changes. Unfortunately for PNG's Donald Barry, he is amongst a handful of Brisbane Lions who are being 'moved on'.
The AFL website reports that senior listed players Matt Austin and Xavier Clarke, and rookie listed players Broc McCauley, Bart McCulloch and Donald Barry have all been shown the door.
Barry played 15 games in season 2011 for the Brisbane Lions in the NEAFL. Alas, the Lions finished last in the Northern Conference. His 2010 season was cut short by injury.
A particular disappointment is that Barry missed PNG's IC11 campaign to continue playing with Brisbane, only to be de-listed a few weeks later.
Broc McCauley appears a surprise ommission, standing 202 cm and having managed 3 games earlier in the season where he seemingly impressed a few onlookers, although at 24 years of age, he isn't a 'young' rookie.
There has been a number of stories doing the rounds that Port Adelaide's young key defender, Fijian born Alipate Carlile was keenly sought after by several AFL clubs. But in some of the best news for a while at the club Port Adelaide has announced today that he has inked a new deal with the Power.
We reported just prior to the International Cup launch of the tragic death of Papua New Guinea's Peter Meli. His last activity as Mosquitoes team manager on August 6 had been to ensure that the players got home safely after their farewell BBQ. Shortly thereafter he was stabbed, and died later in hospital. AFL PNG has acted rapidly in establishing a Peter Meli Trust for the benefit of his children.
AFL PNG chairman Scott Reid explains “Most probably he did not make provisions for them given the nature of his death. We want to ensure that there is an ongoing way to help them because Meli was always willing to help others while he was with us.” Reid said the trust would pay school fees, books, uniforms and other related costs direct to schools and suppliers for the children concerned.
The initial Trust has been set up with contributions from AFL PNG, the AFL, Essendon AFL club (with whom son David Meli is listed as an international scholarship player) and AFL Port Moresby. The trustees will be Reid, Prof Kenneth Sumbuk (an official of Meli’s club, University Tigers) and Walter Yangomina (AFL PNG development manager).
Reid indicated that on the anniversary of Peter’s death every year, AFL PNG would hold a memorial match and a BBQ with proceeds given to the trust. Further, Meli will also be commemorated through the awarding of the Peter Meli Medal for the best PNG player in the International Cup every year.
Brendan Beno has been starring for PNG and was offered the opportunity on Saturday to play with the Brisbane Lions reserves. He is currently scholarship listed for the club so it was a great opportunity for the Lions who were playing against the Sydney Swans' at the GWS home ground, to throw him into the action.
In the NEAFL crossover clash the Lions were soundly beaten by the Swans but Beno was able to have an early chance to goal from a set shot. Known as a very accurate kick that rarely misses, he did miss on this occaision, which can be clearly put down to nerves.
Penisimani Mahina is a 19 year old from Tonga, and is on the verge of becoming the face of Tongan footy. Named Captain of the Tongan Tigers for the 2011 International Cup, Peni received some publicity last year in Australia in no small part due to his father being a cousin of the father of Israel Folau.
Today, the AFL’s newest club, the Greater Western Sydney Giants reveal Peni as an International Scholarship signing (a not so well kept secret). He joins several other South Pacific youngsters – but he joins them with a little more fanfare and the obvious photo opportunities.
The links, tenuous or otherwise to Folau are there to be exploited and manipulated – and that’s understandable. However, there’s a bit of a misconception that the footy journey of Peni Mahina was instigated by the AFL signing of Izzie. But that, and money, certainly had nothing to do with it.
On Saturday, Game Day 1 of the IC11, WFN caught up with Peni Mahina as well as his father Malakai.
Jumping to this year and we shift focus to suburban Melbourne.
WFN : In 2011, this season, you’ve come to Melbourne and you’re playing with Avondale Heights in the powerful Essendon District Football League. It’s a tremendous credit to you that you’ve played all games so far in the seniors, and more so that from Round 4 to 12 inclusive, you’d only missed out on the media reported best six on two occassions, and snagging 5 goals along the way – we must assume you’ll be polling well at the B&F count.
DW : To be Playing at Avondale Heights in the EDFL is once again another achievement that I am very proud of. To come into an A-Grade club and to be in the EDFL – the best district league in Australia, is something I never thought would happen; at the first training session I attended I barely lasted 30mins, cramping 4 times, out of breath and so many more things happened.. I thought getting a game in the seniors was a long shot. But I guess I’ve been able to improve over the pre-season and playing all 12 games so far is an honour. Getting named in the media report every other week is comforting knowing that I’m getting somewhere with my football but the first thing is to help the team out. Getting five goals is just a plus. (A fluke I reckon). People say things about the B&F count but I ain’t (sic) worried about that.
The island nation of Fiji will debut at this year’s AFL International Cup. A nation that until a couple of years ago was unknown on the footy international scene – but, also a nation with a fair representation in the AFL by way of David Rodan, Alipate Carlile and Nic Naitanui. It is with great interest then that we’ve tracked the progress of AFL Fiji over the last couple of years and a name that has been at the forefront is the Wolfgramm family name.
Recently WFN caught up with one of the family and Fiji’s inaugural under 16s captain (from the 2009 Oceania Cup), Dylan Wolfgramm, who will be a key member of the Fijian squad in Sydney and Melbourne later this month.
WFN : Firstly, confirming that Dylan would be playing alongside brother Max, I asked how exciting the build-up has been for the Fijian International Cup debut.
DW : Yes I have been named in the Fiji IC11 Squad and proud that I have been named along with my brother Max. The build-up to the cup has been both a challenge and exciting in terms of this, being Fijis debut and that in finding support back in Fiji through sponsors and also the public to embrace and help carry AFL Fiji along.
Footy doesn’t stop in nations not attending the International Cup. In the Solomon Islands activities have been ongoing. With the previous RAMSI head Graeme Wilson finishing his stint in the Solomon’s, which included being heavily involved with footy, the Solomon’s have welcomed Ed Burton, taking up an AYAD (youth ambassador) posting and assuming the role of AFL and Cricket Development Officer.
The week just gone has been a big week. As WFN tweeted recently, there was a move to establish a schools program, and Ed is able to report that most school clinics are now up and running for the school term, along with 2 new training centres. Ed and other volunteers have been working hard and getting more people involved.
“We have had a good response at Tenaru, Burns Creek and Honiara High with around 40 participants at most centres.”