The Canterbury Cobras are set to defend their U20 NPC title this weekend at Parrs Park, Auckland.
Teams from Canterbury, Wellington, Auckland and the New Zealand Under 16 team will compete for national honours and the opportunity to represent the New Zealand Under 20 team October 2011 against the Victiorian Amatuer Football Association in two matches also to be held in Auckland.
In a pleasing development there will be limited expansion of the event with players from Otago and the Waikato also attending the tournament in a development year. Hopefully this will prove to be a springboard for those regions to compete in their own right in the future.
In a repeat of last year’s final the Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs, established in 1973, were gunning for their fourth title in a row and their ninth since 1996 (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007-09). They were playing the Hutt Valley Eagles who had won their only Premiership as the Upper Hutt Eagles defeating the Bulldogs in 1995. In an interesting aside the Bulldogs' current, and 4 times Premiership, coach John Jackson was in his first season as a player that year. The teams had met 3 times over the season and the Eagles had come out ahead 2 – 1. This year’s final was expected to be a hard fought close battle between two teams, a reflection of their meetings over the past season.
The WAFL season had been very disappointing to this point. Originally the season was scheduled to commence in September but due to unavailability of grounds it did not get underway until November. This created a split season with a four week break through the summer. A break in a season which is not planned for can just lead to players taking the break and never coming back. The North City Demons did not even get to the break before they were in trouble. After only Round One, where they brought the bare minimum of 15 players, the next two games they turned up short resulting in scratch matches and after that were unsighted. When trying to keep the other teams keen, often with half their teams new to the code, this is lethal in creating commitment to the sport. After the Christmas break it was the Wellington Saints turn to not be able to field a side so the last two rounds became dual forfeits after the Bulldogs and Eagles had their great January clash. This was the only round robin game that actually went ahead in the second part of the season.
AFL PNG has enjoyed nothing short of phenomenal success over the past decade. This is evidenced through the many footballers they have playing football at many levels within Australia. This weight of numbers has been driven by a focused plan to spot talent from a very early age and provide a pathway for the players to develop through. They have had, and continue to have, a committed base of volunteers, both nationals and expatriates, who are focused on the big picture.
Currently they have a number of their established stars who are tied to AFL clubs, with Labi, Barry and Meli all having good pre seasons at Carlton, Brisbane and Essendon respectively. John James has just done 8 weeks with North Melbourne, who are keeping an eye on him this year.
Stanis Susuve and Amua Pirika are not currently with AFL clubs after both being listed in previous years. Pirika is playing in the NTFL with Darwin Buffaloes whilst Susuve is training with Mt Gravatt in Queensland after playing in Labrador’s losing Grand Final team alongside Emmaus Wartova.
Of the next generation of talent, Gideon Simon and Nathan Malbak are of course tied to Richmond, as we reported earlier, whilst Slim Collins took part in the AIS AFL camp and will play State League in Qld.
The floodgates have opened and we can expect many more of their fellow Papua New Guineans to join them over the next few years.
AFL Vanuatu is hoping to build on early encouraging momentum. As reported previously, the village of Erakor is getting right behind them. AFL Vanuatu will be holding a registration day soon, aimed at getting more kids involved and playing on an oval with permanent Australian footy goal posts.
Planning ahead, AFL Vanuatu are aiming to get a full squad together for the next instalment of the Oceania U16 championships. And while Vanuatu was listed earlier as interested in the International Cup – the reality is that their short term ambition on that front would be whether a couple of the older players could be included in some form of combined side.
Justin Johnson paid tribute to the AFL for the support so far, the AFL having “committed a lot of equipment resources and we are hugely appreciative of their efforts. "Cadz (AFLPNG Asia/Pacific manager Andrew Cadzow) in Brisbane clearly understands the challenges ahead for us and has been an incredible help."
Hawthorn Football Club today officially announced they have signed two of New Zealand's most promising young footballers to AFL international scholarship agreements. Rhys Panui-Leth and Shem Tatupu are both from the Auckland region and have represented AFLNZ at junior international level.
These signings are a further development of the Club's HANZ-Up! AFL Program in New Zealand which encompasses both a community participation program through KiwiKick and various school competitions, while also providing a tangible pathway for talented young sportsmen to progress to AFL in Australia.
Panui-Leth and Tatupu were both identified at Hawthorn Football Club's player testing days conducted in Auckland late last year. As part of their football scholarships, both boys will have the opportunity to travel to Melbourne to train with the Hawks throughout 2011 while also receiving specialist coaching in New Zealand.
AFL Vanuatu has informed WFN that the first Australian football club has been formed in Vanuatu. Based in the village of Erakor, Vanuatu’s first ‘AFL’ club is named the Golden Star AFL club.
AFL Vanuatu’s Justin Johnson reports that Erakor is Vanuatu’s second largest village and is only a short drive from the capital Port Vila on the island of Efate.
In December last year, 5 youths mainly from the Erakor Village area, attended the AFL Oceania Cup Under 16s tournament held in Tonga. The lads made up a combined team, the Presidents 18, along with some lads from Samoa and more local lads from Tonga.
Mal Thiel, who has been taking charge of duties in Vanuatu, took on the role as assistant coach and manager of the Presidents 18. This role was made all the harder when a couple of days in the lads were subject to theft, losing among other things passports and a video camera. Despite this set back, they played on. One Vanuatu player was invited to be part of the 40 strong ‘Combine’ testing held as part of the tournament.
AFLPNG has released its Binatangs side to play in the Under 16 Queensland State Championships in Brisbane.
Commencing on April 26, the championships will see the PNG Binatangs play against Queensland Regional sides.
Building on the success of 2010 which saw PNG perform successfully on the international stage, AFLPNG is hopeful of continuing the improvements of the sport throughout PNG.
Nathan Upkai has been named coach of the side, with AFLPNG officials Mesea Dorogori and Ian Karme named as his assistants.
The squad is:-
Jeremy Pikik, Kennedy Lavatu, Junior Francis, Isaac Bakani, Jacky Tony, Bruno Arnold, Ben Otio, Ricky Robert, Ben Tirang, Joshua Kavapo, Joshua Pisep, Samson Augerea, Harry Kambuou, Tony Ronnie, Nane Rai, Albert Gabi, Wilfred Dorogori, Daniel Gitua, Michael Macca, Jeconiah Peni, Raymond Prenai, Ruben Jiak, Max Lavai, Scott Johnson, Eddie Meli, Ori Nilmo, Noel Maguna, Freddy Kalandi
AFLPNG Asia/Pacific manager Andrew Cadzow has arrived in Port Moresby to oversee upcoming PNG coaching updates and school programs as part of the development of the game and to discuss with his large on ground staff the future of the sport for 2011 and beyond.
With a busy schedule awaiting Mr. Cadzow, he is hoping to improve the structure to the 2011 season so that development within PNG can reach even greater heights.
He will be overseeing the plans for the AFLPNG Academy in 2011, and will be hoping to improve the facilities as well as increasing the ways in which the system is run. “We are aiming to consolidate its position as a premier institution whilst creating the opportunity to partner with both the private and business sector to improve facilities, give more opportunities for higher level coaching, whilst ensuring the boy’s education is paramount”. The AFLPNG Academy was established in 2010 and was a great success in its initial year. Building on this success, AFLPNG recently appointed Moses Kar as the New Director of the Academy.
In a Grand Final re-match from last season, the perennial Auckland AFL champions, University Blues, squared off against last year’s opponent, the Waitakere Magpies. Despite many years in the AAFL competition Waitakere had yet to win a flag but with the Club supplying a large contingent to the Senior NZ Hawks in recent years it has only been a matter of time.
These were 2010’s top two teams. One win each during this season’s regular rounds, plus a better for and against percentage, gave Waitakere top spot on the ladder and bragging rights over Uni entering the finals. However when both teams met again in the semi finals the Blues won very well and deservedly went straight through to the grand final, the Magpies had to pick themselves up to play against North Shore in the preliminary final in a week. A great win over North Shores Tigers saw the Waitakere Magpies through to another grand final against the foe.
RICHMOND coach Damien ‘Dimma’ Hardwick looked at his playing list last week as he decided who would play for the Tiges at Alice Springs against the Indigenous All Stars (later cancelled due to cyclone Yasi), and there was one player he really wanted to let loose.
As recently covered on WFN, two of PNG’s young champs are international rookie listed by the Tigers, and have been training at Punt Road. Gideon Simon and Nathan Malbak, a pair of 16-year-olds, were with the Tigers for just a week. So impressive had Simon been that Hardwick felt he was ready to mix it with some of the league's best.