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).
In two recent interviews either side of the Tasman Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett has urged that future AFL expansion should include a team in New Zealand. Kennett is a former premier of Victoria. With the great things that are happening for International footy with players being listed to AFL Clubs, the juniors getting their chances through either State Championships or Australian Championships, funding of International footy through various means and events such as the International Cup, who is to say it is not a realistic dream?
Perhaps when the AFL next looks to expand the competition, say from 18 to 20 teams, it could be a team from NZ generating the same interest that the Gold Coast has this season and GWS will in 2012. For more see the articles in full here:-
As discussed in Oceania - NSW to mimic PNG - Queensland success, AFL PNG has set up pathways through the QLD State Football Championships to develop their players. This has been successful with a significant number of players being AFL listed already, and NZ and other Pacific nations will now have their chance through the NSW State (Zone) Championships.
From a New Zealand point of view it is a brilliant opportunity for NZ footy, and the boys themselves, five of the New Zealand Hawks Under 16 players have been selected to participate for Oceania in the New South Wales Zone Championships. These will be held in Sydney from April 16th to April 22nd 2011.
The players selected also have the opportunity to represent NSW in the Australian Under 16 Championships in Sydney in July 2011. Those who progress through to the NSW team are likely to come up against a selection of New Zealand players who will play for the South Pacific Under 18 team, also competing in the Australian Champs. This doubles the chance for Hawthorn listed player Kurt Heatherly of being at this event.
A key aspect of Papua New Guinea's development over the last 10 years has been providing elite pathways for juniors via participation in Queensland competitions. It started off with PNG contributing to regional sides in the QLD state championships, leading to PNG entering full sides in state championships and having players go on to represent Queensland.
Now the rest of the South Pacific nations will get a similar opportunity through participation in New South Wales. As a "football frontier" within Australia, NSW development people will have a good understanding of supporting raw talent and taking the sport to new areas, and also benefit from AFL development dollars.
First up an Oceania Under 16s side will compete in the NSW state under 16 championships. These commence on April 18th, with the visiting players arriving in Sydney on April 16th. Besides matches, the players will also have training, excursions and education sessions. Most players will depart on April 22nd.
Over the past two years the Hawks Cup Secondary School competition has involved Secondary School students from years 9 and 10. The success of the competition sees 2011 as the first year of the Senior Secondary School Hawks Cup now catering for years 11, 12 and 13.
This could be the vital step in getting what appears to be a very talented mid-teenager group to stay in the sport within school and move into local senior competitions. In fact in areas such as Otago and the Bay of Plenty these students might be the ones that cause local competitions to be created.
Over March 22nd, 23rd and 24th, cluster tournaments have seen 16 teams compete in five regions through out the North Island.
The weekend of March 12th and 13th saw the Under 20 National Provincial Championships played in Auckland at Parrs Park, Oratia. After losing their first game of the weekend, the Under 16 NZ Hawks went on to win all of their remaining games including the Grand Final against the Wellington Tigers 9.8 (62) to 6.9 (45).
This is the third year the tournament has taken place with previous winners Auckland in Christchurch in 2009 and Canterbury in Wellington in 2010.
Teams from Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury and the New Zealand Under 16 team, competed in matches comprising of two 22 minute halves over the two days. After a round robin, the two top teams were selected to enter into the grand final with Wellington undefeated (including a tie with Auckland) and NZ Under 16’s with just the one loss to Wellington. In the third and fourth playoff, Auckland was too strong for the Canterbury Cobras.
Over the years the AFL has slowly expanded its various metrics for testing young players, steadily adding to fitness and agility tests. Recently a "hands" test was added under guidance from Matthew Lloyd and a kicking analysis by Nathan Buckley. Now the AFL's Kevin Sheehan has combined all the measures to give an overall result for players, and so far Tasmanian and South Pacific players have been tested. Encouragingly for international footy fans, the "newcomers" recorded some impressive results. Besides providing more evidence to AFL recruiters to consider international talent, it also continues the rise in profile of international footy.
Top 10 scores from the Tasmanian and South Pacific NAB AFL Under-16 Combines (all scores out of 60):
Eli Templeton (Burnie, Tas) - 42.9
Ben Killalea (Lauceston, Tas) - 42.5
Tommell Raidinen (Nauru, South Pacific) - 41
Seniol Hermon (Samoa, Sth Pac) - 40
Kade Koladjashnij (Launceston, Tas) - 38.4
Kurt Heatherly (New Zealand, Sth Pac) - 38
Max Lavia (Papua New Guinea, Sth Pac) - 38
Marcus Lee (South Launceston, Tas) - 37.9
Gideon Simon (Papua New Guinea, Sth Pac) - 36
Ryan Dowling (Clarence, Tas) - 35.8
Wednesday 16th February was a big night for friends of AFL Fiji, with the still relatively young organisation taking a large step forward in raising significant funds at their Island Night Cocktail Party. We've been sitting on the story awaiting the final total and yesterday Carla Rodan was able to confirm that just over AUD$20,000 was raised.
Organised by AFL Fiji Australia Directors David and Carla Rodan and Alipate Carlisle, the event was staged at the Strathmore Hotel in Adelaide, South Australia. Port Adelaide AFL players David Rodan and Alipate Carlisle (pictured left), both of Fijian heritage, were gratefully able to access some of Port's generous sponsors, allowing for a big turnout and some good bids on auction items.
A group of volunteers in Melbourne have been assisting AFL Samoa for some years. They are endeavouring to assist the committee in Apia which is going through a re-building stage. Unfortunately there has not been a development person provided through the Australian Youth Aid Development (AYAD) organisation for some time.
The Melbourne based volunteers are seeking anyone currently living in Samoa that may wish to assist the hard working committee at AFL Samoa.