The smallest island nation in the world, Nauru has a notable and sizable presence in the international Aussie rules community. With 680 registered junior and senior players out of a population of roughly 10,000, Nauru has the highest participation rate of any country in the world (30-35%).
That’s pretty impressive for a nation that is less than a century old and covers less than 10 square miles.
Nauru is a tiny phosphate rock island in the central Pacific, located just south of the Equator in the vicinity of several archipelago-nations, including the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati.
Despite being very close geographically, Australia and Papua New Guinea might seem like being worlds apart in culture and lifestyle. But in the realm of sports, the two countries are very similar – Papua New Guinea’s national sport is rugby league, making it one of the few countries besides Australia to favor rugby league over rugby union.
But the country is also home to a very passionate footy community, which the locals typically refer to as “AFL” or just “Rules.”
Papua New Guinea was an Aussie territory for many years, establishing partially autonomous rule shortly after World War II, but not becoming a fully independent nation until 1975. Given these historic ties, it’s not surprising that the sport of Aussie rules has a well-established history in PNG.
Footy was first played in PNG in 1944 in the city of Lae, where a number of Australian schoolteachers and military personnel were located. Lae, the second-largest city in PNG, proved to be an ideal spot for an Aussie rules community to grow over the next few decades, as the game spread to other large cities, including the capital, Port Moresby.
One of the most sport-crazed countries in the Pacific, the islands of Fiji have long lacked a presence in Aussie rules football. It’s overshadowed significantly by rugby union, the Fijian national sport, but footy has made some strong gains in recent years.
AFL matches were first televised in Fiji in 2002, and the league saw that there was potential to reach the Fijian population and help establish footy as both a spectator sport and a participation sport. By 2005, the Fiji Daily Post had beat writers covering AFL games, in addition to the much more established sports of rugby union, rugby league, and netball.
Around the same time, a group of Aussie police officers stationed near the Fijian capital of Suva helped get some local athletes involved. The Aussies founded the Fijian Australian Football Association (FAFA) that year, with the goal of keeping it as the national governing body for footy. They attempted to get a national footy team into the 2007 South Pacific Games, which were being held in Fiji, but they couldn’t qualify in time due to a lack of players and funding. The FAFA went on hiatus as they attempted to organize a local competition.
The Nauru All Stars have started their two match tour with a big win over the The Zillmere Eagles by 12 goals.
The young Stars stood out with their speed and agility around the field, which became too much for the Eagles. Young Jeremiah Kam, Niga Haulangi and veteran Timothy Teabuge dominated in defence while Donatello Moses and Yoshi Harris did most of the damage up forward.
Vice captain Mallinson Batsiua using his strength and experience to dominate the centre clearances.
Yoshi Harris won the All Stars Coach's best on ground while Niga Haulangi awarded Zillmere Eagles vote for best player.
The following is a story from EMTV in PNG. It details the great work being done by AFL PNG staff along with development officers from Australia as they conducted coaching clinics this week in Port Moresby.
David Rodan was born in Fiji and left with his family to come to Australia when he was just three years old. He has become one of a small band of Fijian descent players in the AFL, a list which includes Alipate Carlile (Formerly with Port Adelaide), Nic Naitanui (WestCoast Eagles), Aaron Hall and Tom Nicholls (both Gold Coast Suns).
But Rodan is arguably the most successful Fijian player to date. A look at his record at AFL level bears this out. He played 185 games in his career over three clubs – starting with Richmond, then Port Adelaide and finishing with Melbourne. Over this time he amassed an impressive array of achievements including back to back Morrish Medals in the TAC Cup with the Calder Cannons (2000/2001), a grand final player with Port Adelaide in 2007, twice representing Australia in International Rules teams in 2008. He kicked 131 goals across his AFL career and polled 15 Brownlow votes, six of those in the 2007 season.
The end of a big week - once again, the following report provided by Ben Drew - AFL South Pacific Development manager.
Today was GRAND FINAL Day for the AFL U/15 Youth Oceania Cup in Fiji.
The weather was beautiful and the footy was terrific!!!
Huge thank you to Fiji Sports Commission & Coke for their partnership for the event! AFL Fiji, Siteri, Simon, Maciu, Matalita, Saula, Isimeli, Yabaki, Jiuta, Mere, Roko, Semesa, Va, Litia & everyone who has volunteered to run boundaries, do the goals & other jobs during the tournament. Once again AFL Fiji has been great in organising this event on the ground!
A reminder that Wednesday was a rest day, so after Tuesdays first day of four quarter championship matches - today saw the 2nd batch of four quarter games. The report below again provided by Ben Drew AFL South Pacific Development Manager.
Wednesday was a rest day and at 8:30am teams were sent to the Damadoor Aquatic centre for recovery session with Michael Hyndman from AFLQLD, the teams were then dropped off to Albert Park and taken through Social Media & Respect & Responsibility workshops. From 1pm Andrew Hughes from the AFL gathered all the coaches and took them through a coaching masterclass session.