Australian rules football in Oceania

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Papua New Guinea's Mosquitos celebrate taking the International Cup from New Zealand to become International champions in 2008

Australian rules football in Oceania describes the sport of Australian rules football as it is watched and played in the Oceania region.

Today the sport is most popular in Nauru where it is the national sport,[1] and Australia, where the AFL is the most attended football code.

There are currently organised open age leagues in seven nations (including Australia) around the Pacific, while in at least four other nations there have been participation in the sport. The sport is broadcast on television in most of these countries, particularly the AFL Grand Final, however outside of Australia (where it receives record breaking broadcast rights) and New Zealand it is only broadcast on satellite television or cable television.

Some players from the pacific region have become notable for playing in the elite Australian Football League however to date Papua New Guinea and New Zealand are the only countries from which players have been directly recruited. Players from other countries have been offered scholarships.

Australian football began in Australia and also spread to New Zealand in the 19th Century, however it was no longer played by the time of the First World War, the currently existing leagues having been founded in the 1970s.

The Australian Football International Cup competition began 2002 open to all Australian Football playing countries except Australia. It has been held every three years since and has included many teams from the region. Papua and New Guinea and New Zealand being the most successful of the region.

A bid was made to include Australian football as an event in 2007 South Pacific Games which was hosted by Fiji, however it failed to qualify due to not qualifying the number of participating nations.[2]

AFL Oceania (which does not include Australia) is affiliated to the AFL Commission and was formed in 2008 as a regional governing and development body.[3] From 2010 a South Pacific representative team has participated in Division 2 of the AFL Under 16 Championships [4]

Australia[edit]

Australian rules is one of the most popular sports in Australia and has over 800,000 players.

It is home to the professional Australian Football League competition which is the most attended sporting league in the country and is also home to leagues in every state and territory as well as women's leagues, amateur leagues, junior leagues and recreational leagues .

Fiji[edit]

Fijian-born David Rodan has acted as an international ambassador for the sport and has a passion to see the sport succeed in Fiji.[5]

Six players of Fijian background have played professionally in the Australian Football League, however until 2009 there was no organised Australian rules football played in-country.

The governing body for the sport on the islands is AFL Fiji, created in 2009.[6]

History in Fiji[edit]

The first television broadcasts of matches by the Australia Network began in 2002.

The first efforts to establish the sport in Fiji were made by Australian police officers based in the capital Suva in 2004.[7] The Fijian Australian Football Association was formed as a governing body and a failed bid was made for inclusion of the sport into the 2007 South Pacific Games held in Fiji.[2] The FAFA went into recess without creating an organised league.

The Western Bulldogs became the first AFL club to actively scouting for recruits in Fiji.[8] This project was later announced to begin with open trials in Suva and Labasa in October of that year. 16 year-old Solomon Loki and 19 year-old Inoke Ratu were added to the Western Bulldogs International scholarship lists.

After the creation of the AFL Oceania in 2008, Fiji was identified as a major target for Australian rules football development in the region. The AFL Fiji was in formation in mid-2009, with meetings to create a national body and committee.[6]

In 2010, a schools tournament was held, with more than 80 students from 14 different schools in Suva and Nausori represented in six teams that played round robin matches.[9] The "Fiji Power" national team made its first appearance at the Under 16 Oceania Cup in Tonga in December 2010.[10] The team entered the 2011 Australian Football International Cup and were highly successful, taking the Division 2 title after dominating the Grand Final against France.[11]

Fijian Players in the VFL/AFL[edit]

Player Connection to Fiji VFL/AFL Years* VFL/AFL Matches*
Nicholas Naitanui Fijian parents 2009 - 32
Alipate Carlile Born in Fiji, Fijian mother 2006 - 74
Setanta Ó hAilpín Rotuman mother 2005 - 72
David Rodan Born in Fiji to Fijian parents 2002 - 150
Wes Fellowes Fijian mother 1981–1989 102
Charlie Moore Born in Fiji 1897–1899 30
  • stats up to June, 2009

Nauru[edit]

Australian rules football in Nauru dates back to the 1930s and quickly established itself as the national sport of the country.

New Caledonia[edit]

Social football has been played in Noumea by Australian, French and New Zealander expats since around 2008.[12]

New Zealand[edit]

Australian rules football was introduced to New Zealand by Australian emigrants in the early 20th century and a New Zealand national team took part in one of the first State of Origin carnivals (1908). The game then died out in the country around the time of the First World War, later resurrected in the 1970s. The game is currently governed by the New Zealand Australian Football League, with regional leagues in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch. The New Zealand national team, dubbed the Falcons, are one of the strongest outside Australia, finishing third in the first Australian Football International Cup in 2002, winning the competition in 2005 and has been a finalist in all International Cups.

Papua New Guinea[edit]

The Papua New Guinea Mosquitos celebrate winning the 2008 International Cup after the siren in a thriller at the MCG against New Zealand

Papua New Guinea has the largest number of registered Australian rules footballers outside Australia, with senior and junior competitions in most major population centres. With a large depth of players PNG is a consistently strong performer in international competition having competed in all AFL International Cups as a grand finalist. The sport in PNG is controlled by the PNG Rules Football Council.

Samoa[edit]

Australian rules football in Samoa has been played since 1997. The national team, known as the Bulldogs first competed at the Arafura Games in 1998. There is a full-time development officer funded by AusAid, a junior development program and a schoolboy's tournament. Samoa has competed in all AFL International Cups except 2011achieving mid placed rankings.

Solomon Islands[edit]

Australian rules football was first played in the Solomon Islands in 2003 with some junior clinics held by Garry McKenzie and members of the Australian Defence Force, stationed in the country to help restore order after years of civil unrest. The first AGM of the Solomon Islands Australian Football Association was held in August 2004 at the National Sports Centre, with around 100 people attending, almost all being locals. The committee was elected and subsequently met to discuss plans for developing the code, especially for 12 to 18 year olds. By the end of 2004 there were two senior teams playing friendly matches and around 150 juniors had participated in games.

Since 2004, junior clinics have been held regularly in Honiara, and the Solomon Islands' first representative squad will compete at the AFL Oceania Under 18 Championships in December 2010.[13][14]

A youth development officer will be working in cricket and Australian rules development in the islands from 2011.[15]

Tonga[edit]

Australian rules football in Tonga has been played since 2003, when the Tonga Australian Football Association was founded. A schools competition has been played yearly since then, including a tour to Samoa and the national team has competed against the Fitzroy Reds amateur team from Australia. In its debut appearance at the 2011 AFL International Cup Tonga finished a highly creditable ninth position out of 18 competing countries.

Vanuatu[edit]

Australian rules football has been played in Vanuatu since 2006, when AFL Queensland volunteers from the Gold Coast, Queensland set up a Rec Footy competition. The program expanded in 2008 to include an Auskick junior development program.[16]

The AFL Vanuatu was formally created in 2010, and nominated five Vanuatu local youths to compete at the Under 16s Oceania Cup, to be held in Tonga in December 2010.[17]

Oceanian performance at International Cup[edit]

Flag Nation Nickname 2002 2005 2008 2011
Fiji Fiji Tribe - - - 12th
New Zealand New Zealand Hawks 3rd 1st 2nd 4th
Nauru Nauru Chiefs 8th - 5th 7th
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea Mosquitos 2nd 2nd 1st 3rd
Samoa Samoa Kangaroos 7th 5th 10th -
East Timor Timor-Leste Crocs - - - 17th
Tonga Tonga Tigers - - - 11th

References[edit]

External links[edit]