Australian rules football in Papua New Guinea
|Australian rules football in Papua New Guinea|
Papua New Guinea's Mosquitos celebrate taking the International Cup from New Zealand to become International champions in 2008.
|Governing body||PNG Rules Football Council|
|National team||Papua New Guinea|
|First played||1944, Lae|
|Registered players||1,920 (adult)|
|Single match||7,500 (2009) Central Highlands vs Flying Boomerangs (Indigenous tour of PNG) Lae|
Australian rules football in Papua New Guinea is a rapidly developing team sport which was initially introduced by Australian servicemen. The sport has a long and somewhat shaky history, but has recently achieved big strides in the Papua New Guinea community and is now the second most popular sport.
The Papua New Guinea national Australian rules football team have been grand finalists in all AFL International Cups and won the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.
Players of Papua New Guinean heritage have played professionally in the Australian Football League, the most famous of which is "king" Mal Michael. In 2010, at least 4 players had been recruited from Papua New Guinea to AFL lists. A larger number of players of Papua New Guinean origin now participate in semi-professional state leagues around Australia. The AFl has estblished a pathway from PNG to the AFL mainly through Queensland but more recently recently Tasmania.
In PNG, the sport is typically referred to as "AFL", but also as "rules", "rules football" or "AFL rules".
Early Beginnings 
Australian Rules was introduced to Papua New Guinea in the 1944 by Australian school teachers and defence force personnel in Lae and Nagada. At the time, Papua New Guinea was an Australian territory.
Rapid Growth 
The sport experienced rapid growth and during the 1960s, the New Guinea National Football League ran in both Port Moresby and Lae.
During the 1970s there was an annual competition against a team from the Gold Coast, Queensland.
In 1974, PNG players Vili Maha and Gimana Guma trialled with the South Melbourne Football Club.
1977 was an historic year for Papua New Guinean football. The year saw the first ever international matches involving Australia at under 17 level between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Australian Under 17 squad toured Papua New Guinea, and the PNG team reciprocated in Adelaide, with Australia winning the match.
The VFL appointed Peter Evans as full-time manager in 1978/79 he VFL appointed a full time manager for the PNG Rules Council.
80s Decline 
The game suffered greatly through the 1980s with the popularity of rugby league on television, particularly the New South Wales Rugby League and Rugby League State of Origin matches between Queensland and New South Wales. Apart from the VFL Grand Final, Australian Rules matches during the 1980s were rarely televised.
However the sport despite being largely unsustainable continued to be played with a small base of dedicated but aging senior players. At points the game's administration went close to liquidation. The nearby Australian Rules administration body in Cairns stepped in and commencing in 1990 there was regular competition against teams from the Cairns Australian Football League.
PNG's senior national team, the Mosquitoes, competed for the first time at the 1995 Arafura Games in Darwin, Northern Territory. The "Mosquitos" were a success, winning the gold medal by defeating New Zealand in the Grand Final. PNG players named in the World Team named at the tournament were George Kava, Willie Lipou, Thomas Gori and Tony Megea.
In 1995, after PNG's success at the Arafura Games, Ed Biggs from the then Australian Football Foundation (AFF) and Ian Collins from the AFL visited all the major Australian football centres in PNG and had discussions with officials.
PNG Rules Football Council officials were advised to draw up a three year development plan to qualify for football development assistance. The plan was to include a summary of the current state of Rules Football in PNG, a management structure, facilities improvement, development proposals and financial estimates.
In August 1996 the Mosquitoes travelled to Perth as part of the AFL Centenary Celebrations. They played a match against the Central Desert Eagles as a curtain raiser to a West Coast Eagles v. Carlton match. PNG 21.22 (148) defeated the Central Desert Eagles 5.8 (38).
PNG defended their Gold Medal at the 1997 Arafura Games, defeating New Zealand 14.9 (93) to 9.6 (60) in the final. PNG also played against the NTFL, Australian Defence Force and Central Desert Eagles as well as their international counterparts. PNG players named in the 1997 World Team were Gibson Isaiah, George Kaore, David Lucas and Willie Lipou.
The Game Booms 
In 2000 the AFL sent a Development Officer, Andrew Cadzow, to PNG. Based in Port Moresby, Cadzow also visited other regional centres.
AFL PNG was established in August 2001. AFL PNG is the representative of the AFL in PNG and has been incorporated to coordinate, support and operate Junior Development and Community based programs relating to AFL footy in PNG. Scott Reid, Salvatore Algeri and Mel Togolo are the current Directors of AFL PNG and are responsible for establishing and promoting AFL Junior Development Programs in PNG.
In 2002, the Mosquitos finished second behind Ireland in the inaugural Australian Football International Cup.
In 2003, Alister Sioni won the AFL PNG Elite Scholarship and trained with the Brisbane Lions between 11 November and 23 December.
2005 was a big year for football in PNG. In the International Cup, the Mosquitos finished in second place behind New Zealand.
Also in 2005, AFL Queensland took AFL PNG "under its wing" to provide a pathway for PNG players to the AFL. Queensland is one of the nearest and most populous Australian states, and a result, there are now many junior and senior PNG players participating in Queensland state championships and clubs. Additional funding came from Queensland since, and the Mal Michael Foundation was established in the same year to further foster PNG talent.
In 2006, Papua New Guinea under 16s again won the U16s Queensland Country Championships, defeating Cairns in the Grand Final. Several PNG players were selected to represent the Country Kookaburras U16s squad which lost the Grand Final to the Northern Raiders. Port Moresby’s Stanis Susave, became the first player from Papua New Guinea to represent the Queensland Scorpions in the under 16s.
In 2007, U16 Bintangs were invited to the all-Queensland state championships, managing one win out of three by defeating the AFLQ Colts. The U14s followed.
In November, the PNG girls Under 17 squad went through the QLD state championships undefeated to take the title outright. Only Cape York were able to register a score against the junior Karakums.
Outstanding PNG juniors Stanis Susuve and John James were invited to the AFL/AIS Draft Camp in November 2007.
Several players to learn the game in PNG began reaching senior level in Australia in various regional and state leagues in 2007. During the year, 13 Papua New Guinean players represented the Coolangatta-Tweed Heads AFC at senior level in Division 2 of the Queensland State League since 2000, with five playing in the senior team in 2007 - David Evertius, Donald Barry, Johnny James, Emmaus Wartovo and Ali Pinda. Donald Barry, Elijah Baruai and Bergmann Talingapua were all recruited from PNG in 2007 to play for the Manunda Hawks in the AFL Cairns competition.
In March 2008, John James became the first player from Papua New Guinea to represent Queensland in the Under 18 National Championships.
In September 2008, the Mosquitos took out the International Cup in a thriller against New Zealand.
In November 2008, 17 year old Tianen Carbry was invited to the AIS/AFL academy.
In January 2009, 17 year old Amua Parika was signed by the Gold Coast Football Club to play in the AFL. He was followed shortly after by the Gold Coast's signing of talented junior Stanis Susuve. Both players started as junior in PNG.
Funding & Sponsorship 
Despite having the second highest number of players and one of the highest junior participation growth rates for the sport in the world, the sport in Papua New Guinea receives one of the lowest allocations of funding from the AFL. The international governing body provides much lower funding than South Africa despite PNG being closer and has instead insisted that AFL PNG source funds through AusAID, however this has not been forthcoming. In recent years, sponsors have helped fill the void left by a lack of AFL funding. AFL PNG survives on Australian private donations and a small group of sponsors.
Major development funding comes from the following primary sources, including:
|Sponsor||Sponsored||Amount p/a (A$)||Total||Years|
|B-Mobile||National junior programs||100,000||300,000||2009–2012|
|Australian Football League||AFL PNG||45,000||2005-|
|Telekom PNG||Senior national team||40,000||2008-|
|Oil Search Limited||AFL PNG||?||2006-|
Leagues and Competitions 
- Goroka Football League
- Apo Stars
- Mt Kiss
- UPNG Goroka
- Kimbe Football League
- Bali Hawks
- Central Magpies
- SBLC Buluma
- True West
- Lae Football League
- Mt Hagen Football League
- Port Moresby Football League
- Andersons Koki Dockers
- Tisa Jets
- University Bulldogs
- Rabaul Football League
- Rabaul Bulldogs
- Vunapope Tigers
- Eastern Highland Rules Football League
National Championships 
Year, National Champion
- 1995 Lae
- 1996 NCD
- 1997 NCD
- 1998 NCD
- 1999 NCD
- 2000 Hoskins¹
- 2001 ²
- 2002 ²
- 2003 ?
- 2004 NCD
- 2005 ²
- 2006 ?
¹The national titles in 2000 attracted teams from Buka, Pomio, Rabaul, Kove, Hoskins, Kimbe, Lae, Mt Hagen and National Capital District (Port Moresby). ²There were no championships staged in 2001, 2002 (due to the International Cup) or 2005 (due to the International Cup).
National Teams 
PNG's national team is the Mosquitoes.
They debuted in 1973 at Under 17 level against Australia but have not played Australia since.
The team are currently international champions by winning the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.
The team has also tasted success in the past with a gold medal in the Arafura Gamess and silver at both 2002 and 2005 International Cups.
The national women's team is known as the Karakums. They have competed in Australian provincial championships and the International Cup.
Governing Body 
Despite calls from Mal Michael to hold NAB Cup matches in Port Moresby, to date no AFL level matches have ever been played in PNG, however Australian Rules matches played there sometimes still draw big crowds. The following are notable crowds for matches played in Papua New Guinea.
|7,500||2009||Central Highlands vs Flying Boomerangs (Indigenous tour of PNG)||Lae, Papua New Guinea|||
|5,000||1999||Wests vs Koboni (AFL PNG Grand Final)||Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea|||
|2,500||2009||PNG (U18) Kupundas vs Flying Boomerangs (Indigenous tour of PNG)||University of Papua New Guinea Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea|||
Notable players 
Papua New Guineans have played professional and semi-professional Australian rules football in Australia, and have dominated the All-International amateur team for many years. More recently, AFL clubs have taken an interest in recruiting PNG talent. However a major inhibitor for recruitment remains height, with many of the more talented players being under 176 cm which is typically considered too short for professional AFL.
Players in the AFL 
|Currently on an AFL senior or rookie list|
|Player||VFL/AFL Years*||VFL/AFL Matches*||Connections to Papua New Guinea, References|
|Mal Michael||1997–2008||238||Born Port Moresby, Papuan father|
|James Gwilt||2005–||85||Papuan mother|
|Gideon Simon||2013–||0||Papuan born and raised|
- stats up to June 2009
- Donald Barry - (177 cm 76 kg) born in PNG was drafted by the Brisbane Lions through its international rookie selection in 2009 although he was later delisted. At junior level he played for both Coolangatta in the AFL Queensland State League and Manunda Hawks in AFL Cairns. He represented PNG at senior level in the 2008 International Cup team winning a premiership medal and was awarded the Norm Smith medal as the best player in the International Cup Grand Final and was selected as a half back the 2008 All-International squad.
- Winis Imbi - born in PNG played a few reserves games for the Essendon Football Club in 1997 while playing for the Ballarat Rebels. He was promoted to the rookie list in 1998 and won the Bomber's reserves best and fairest. He was released by the club the following year.
- David Meli - (175 cm 76 kg) born 11 Sep 1992 in PNG was drafted by Essendon Football Club through its international rookie list in 2009 Meli was a member of the international champion PNG Mosquitos at just 16 years of age. He played senior football at the age of 17 with the Southport Football Club. Meli was selected by n the 2009 Rookie Draft as an International Rookie. His father, Peter, won three Arafura Games titles with the Mosquitos and played in the 2002 International Cup Grand Final side.
- Amua Parika - (190 cm 80 kg) born in PNG, was signed by the Gold Coast Football Club in 2009 but later delisted. He represented Papua New Guinea in the Under 16 Queensland State Championships before starring in a senior Mosquitos while still just 17 where he gained a reputation as a goal kicking forward.
- Stanis Susuve - (176 cm 88 kg) born in PNG in April 2009 became the second Papuan to be signed by the Gold Coast Football Club (after Amua Pirika) and the first internationally developed player to compete in the TAC Cup. He represented Queensland at both Under 16 and Under 18 level. He has played for the Suncoast Lions, the reserve side for the Brisbane Lions in the first division of the semi-professional Queensland State League, Queensland's premier Australian Football league. He originally won a scholarship to play with the Zillmere Eagles in the same competition where he once kicked a haul of 15 goals in the reserve grade premiership and won the club's Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. He was invited to the AFL/AIS Draft camp in 2007. Susuve represented PNG at senior level in the 2008 International Cup team where he received a premiership medal and was selected in the 2008 All-International squad.
- Peter Labi - born in PNG was drafted by the Carlton Football Club through its international rookie list in 2009. He had previously Suncoast Lions (Brisbane Lions reserves) in 2008 and represented Papua New Guinea at the 2008 International Cup where he won a premiership medal.
Other Notable Players 
- Navu Maha - Maha trained with the South Melbourne Swans VFL team in Melbourne in the 1980s. He became captain of the Mosquitos during the 2002 and 2005 International Cups and two time All-International who has also represented Papua New Guinea in cricket.
- Marcus Bai - an Aussie Rules junior who went on to become a standout rugby league player.
- Alister Sioni - (185 cm 80 kg) a West New Britain player who won a scholarship and was invited to train with the Brisbane Lions in the pre-season of 2003, has also played in AFL Cairns seniors and was named in the 2005 All-International team. He captained the Mosquitos for the 2008 International Cup where he received a premiership medal.
- James Imbi - (180 cm) the younger brother of Winis Imbi was also born in PNG and played with Winis at Portland since 2005. After trying out with the Sturt Football Club in the South Australian National Football League in 2004, Imbi went to the Palmerston Football Club in the Northern Territory Football League where he plays in the off-season. By round 8, 2005, Imbi had led in the ABC NTFL player of the year count with 11 votes. In 2007, like his brother, he won the Western Border Football League best and fairest.
- Jerry Frank - played 13 years for the Palmerston Football Club in the Northern Territory Football League as a defender before retiring in 2007. Born in Port Moresby to a Papuan father and Torres Strait Islands mother he was a member of eight NT representative sides and played against a number of AFL clubs including Collingwood, Fremantle, Brisbane and also WAFL clubs.
- John James - (179 cm 76 kg) a talented junior rugby league convert who graduated from Coolangatta in Queensland State League division 2 up to the Suncoast Lions (Brisbane Lions reserves), earning selection in the team of the year. In 2007, he represented Queensland Country at the Under 18 state titles and was invited to the AFL/AIS Draft camp. James made an outstanding debut for Zillmere Eagles in 2008 and was nominated for the AFL Queensland Rising Star award. He was rewarded for a consistent season, becoming the first player from Papua New Guinea to represent Queensland in the Under 18 National Championships. He was named in the 2008 International Cup squad as an interchange player.
See also 
- 29/46th infantry battalion and 37/52nd infantry battalion played at Deslandes sports oval in front of a sizeable crowd of natives. Source 074980 Australian War Memorial
- Australian War Memorial 099009
- Australian War Memorial 099811
- http://www.pngaa.net/Photo_Gallery/NGFL/index.html>New Guinea National Football League
- Full Points Footy 1977 to 1980
- AFL Queensland adopts AFL-PNG Article from the National
- AFL PNG :: pure AFL . . . purely Papua New Guinea
- Binatangs dominate Queensland Country Championships by Brett Northey for World Footy News 4 May 2006
- Three PNG Under 18s selected for Country Kookaburras by Brett Northey for World Footy News 3 May 200
- Australia Post U16 Young Scorpions squad named
- World Footy News - PNG U16 Girls are Qld State Champs!
- PNG Juniors at AFL/AIS Draft Camp
- AFL PNG :: pure AFL . . . purely Papua New Guinea
- Footy recruit in trouble
- PNG teens to play footy for Nambour from the SunCoast daily
- SportingPulse Homepage for AFL Queensland
- International juniors head for AIS and Junior Oceania Cup
- Michael dreams of game in PNG
- AFL clubs look to PNG for talent from the Post Courier
- AFL stars shine from postcourier.com.pg
- Gwilt trip: the road less travelled from The Australian
- Coast sign PNG teen by Terry Wilson for goldcoast.com.au. 29 January 2009
- Panthers crush Suncoast
- Thank you Mum for everything from thenational.com.pg
- PNG Players making their mark
- International Cup's Mosquitoes' chance to follow idol
- ABC NTFL Player of the Year
- Mail Medalists 2007
- Frank retires with nothing else to prove from aboriginalfootball.com
- World Footy News - PNG Juniors at AFL/AIS Draft Camp
- Future Coast stars to stake claims
- Video of PNG National Team performing 'Ole Ole' war dance at 2005 International Cup
- Aussie Rules Expands Globally - from the PNG National