On Wednesday morning, the PNG U16 Binatangs flew out of Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby, bound for Brisbane. The task ahead, taking on the challenge of the Under 16 QLD state championships. The first round has been played and the Papua New Guinean boys have already had a win.
The Oceania Under 16 squad has spent the last 4 days leading up to Easter at St Ignatius College at Riverview in Sydney, playing against the best under age talent in NSW. The week began with great promise with a win on day 1, thereafter, the task proved more challenging.
As the week wore on, the results became more one sided. In the first three games, Oceania had managed a total of 15.20 (110) (granted 210 against). However, the last 3 games produced just a further 1.4 (10).
In Vanuatu this Easter weekend, Erakor Village (home of the first AFL footy club in Vanuatu) travelled to Mele for a good Friday footy match. Taking on the newly formed Mele AFL Club in a demonstration game. Fans were advised to get to the Mele ground around 1pm so as to not miss any of the action.
The AFL NSW Under 16 state championships are underway. And, whilst the presence of both sides from the Sydney Swans Academy and the GWS Giants might be newsworthy enough to generate interest outside of NSW; there’s also the small matter of the Oceania Squad making their debut in the tournament. That the Oceania lads have kicked off Day 1 with a solid 16 point win over the NSW Northern Coast side.
Oceania 7.16 (58) defeated Northern Coast 6.6 (42) Goals : Lucas Sili (Sol Is.) 2, Villiami Langi (Tonga) 2, Aleki Palaiti (Tonga) 2 and Thomas (Junior) Joel (Sol Is.) 1.
23 scoring shots to 12 is pretty conclusive. This should be noted as an Oceania side, and NOT a South Pacific side. While there ARE players from New Zealand for example, there are no players from PNG (who are instead eligible for Queensland). This is the important distinction between Oceania and South Pacific rep teams.
Papua New Guinea is the reigning International Cup champions and also the reigning Oceania Under 16s champions. And as reported recently, senior footy in Port Moresby has been undergoing a restructure in readiness to cope with the large numbers of juniors playing footy in PNG. There’s a lot going on in PNG.
In early March a Mosquitos camp was held in Lae and a week later as part of the Australia Week celebrations, a game was held in POM (Port Moresby) between the PNG Mosquitoes and the Australian Bolters (which included some Australian Scholarship players). The Mosquitos won 10.5.(65) to 9.5.(59) with a late goal to AFL PNG manager Walter Yangomina. This match effectively launched the 2011 AFL PNG season. It was also the return to Amini Park in Port Moresby after almost 2 years without AFL action. This Bolters also included some special guests, with former AFL Saint Aussie Jones playing well and former NRL star Mat Rogers playing his first game of 'AFL'.
There was also an curtain raiser match in which the old guys stretched their legs in a Legends vs Champions clash. Participants included the Australian High Commissioner in PNG, Sir Ian Kemmish.
Out of these events the PNG extended squad for the 2011 AFL International Cup title defence was announced. Selection committee comprised of AFL Asia / Pacific Manager Andrew Cadzow, PNG Coach David Lake and AFLPNG Manager Walter Yangomina.
In 2009, the AFL announced the Sydney Swans, GWS GIANTS, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast will set up high performance Academies to provide a pathway for young local athletes to an AFL career.
Each club has exclusive access to athletes aged as young as nine from its own zones within NSW, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland. On Monday, the Swans Academy will play the GIANTS Academy for the very first time. NSW, Queensland and the ACT account for 54 per cent of Australia's population but they provide just 12 per cent of AFL players.
The Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) began in July 2003, with a charter to restore peace and economic stability after five years of conflict. Graeme Wilson has held the position of special coordinator since January 2009 and has recently completed his assignment in the Solomons.
In February this year, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced that Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Nicholas Coppel would become RAMSI's new special coordinator in March.
A couple of weeks back the Adelaide Sunday Mail ran a story looking at the Solomons and RAMSI. As per usual, Graeme Wilson was quoted, along with his CV that includes VFL footy with South Melbourne in the early 70s.
Mr Wilson is using sport as a nation-building tool, encouraging an Auskick and AFL program where reservists like UniSA student Lance Corporal Luke Png help out with coaching. Mr Wilson also coaches the Solomons Sharks in a regional AFL competition which is extremely popular among local men and boys. It is one small way of putting the population's focus on the Solomons as a united nation rather than a collection of islands.
WFN reported back in March that Andrew Cadzow, AFL Pacific development manager, had been working with AFL PNG to help restore senior footy in PNG.
Cadzow says “Senior footy was once a great strength across the country, we are looking at recovering the game to its former glory, to make AFL a premier sport in PNG and make these senior footballers role models for the 40,000 juniors playing the game”.
In a media release on March 30, AFLPNG announced that BSP CEO Ian Clyne had agreed to chair an AFL sanctioned AFLPNG Senior Advisory Board for the 2011 season. AFL International Manager Tony Woods and Asia Pacific Manager Andrew Cadzow have charged the Advisory board to put in place the 2011 season and then spend the next 9 months finalising the best structure and key logistical requirements nationally for AFLPNG.
AFL Fiji continues to make great strides, with AusAID development officer Glen Butler reporting a growing 9-a-side competition in Fiji which will be used as a basis for their International Cup side if they do indeed make the final commitment to attend in 2011.
At last count the 9s competition had four teams playing each week on fields such as the Saint Marcellin Primary School grounds in Vatuwaqa. Butler is hoping to expand to more teams to grow their player base. A lot of players have a Rugby background. As Butler explains, "The players' knowledge of the game (is improving). The boys (and girls) are picking up the skills very quickly. It will just be a matter of more match practice to better understand rules and intricacies of AFL, and of course getting away from the rugby-passes, encouraging knock-on's and off-sides".
"The average age is 17-20, the core group of players are from the Fiji Power Team that competed in Tonga last year for the Oceania Cup. Due to the school clinics and through word-of-mouth, many of the new players now playing are from high schools around Suva. Planning to now target some of the Universities around Fiji as well to attract more players in the 20-25 age bracket".
As part of the growing relationship between AFL club Hawthorn and AFL New Zealand in 2010 the Kiwis adopted the Hawk emblem (replacing the Falcon) and a Hawthorn inspired jumper. Recall that story in Hawks Loom Huge in New Zealand.
It's interesting now to see that Hawthorn are selling that jumper. Although there's an obvious financial benefit to Hawthorn it should also help raise awareness in Australia of NZ footy. Perhaps one day we'll see a Hawthorn match for premiership points "across the ditch", with the Hawks gathering local support wearing this jumper.
You can see the Hawthorn / NZ jumper at the Hawks' online shop (click on PUMA Apparel).