From West New Britain to Windy Hill
The following is Essendon's media release on Meli's signing.
Essendon has signed exciting Papua New Guinea prospect David Meli. The 178cm, 76kg small forward is the second International player ever signed by the Bombers (after Irishman Michael Quinn at the end of 2008) and the first player signed by the club under the AFL's International rookie system.
The 16-year-old PNG resident (he turns 17 in September) is currently living on the Gold Coast to further his football career. He is expected to begin training at Windy Hill in November. National recruiting manager Adrian Dodoro described Meli as a dangerous small forward with the capacity to make things happen through the midfield.
He said he is an intriguing player who will have cult status among Bomber fans. "Young David is highly skilled and is an interesting one," Dodoro said. "He has an amazing upside and for a guy who has only played the game for a little while - he has exceptional skills on both sides of this body.
"He is good overhead, tackles well and a number of football experts - including Queensland talent identification manager Mark Browning - think he has a good chance of playing senior football at Essendon which is exciting. "Importantly, he is a big Bombers fan and rates Scott Lucas as his favorite AFL player.
"Another interesting thing about him is that he genuinely doesn't know which foot he kicks on, because he is fluent on both sides." Dodoro said that, legend has it, that Meli is so comfortable kicking with either foot that when he sets up for a shot on goal he only decides at the final moment which foot he will kick with.
As an AFL International rookie, Meli sits outside of the Bombers' primary and rookie list. The club is allowed three AFL International rookies in 2010.
His father Peter represented PNG at the past two Oceania World Cups and played in the Cairns Football League. Like St Kilda's James Gwilt, David is originally from West New Britain, a real AFL stronghold in PNG.
Meli is a product of the AFL Oceania development program and the AFL Queensland elite player pathway and was a Queensland U/16 representative last year and played with the Caboolture U/16s alongside PNG countryman and Gold Coast squad member Amua Parika.
He has more than held his own through nine senior games with the Southport Sharks this year and kicked two goals on debut. In his sixth game in the wet he showed enormous composure and collected seven kicks, four handballs, four marks and three effective tackles. It was enough to earn him the Round 11 nomination for the NAB AFLQ Rising Star Award.
He played six consecutive games with the Sharks before heading to Sydney for the 2009 NAB AFL Australian U/16 Championships. There he was the No.2 goal-kicker in the Queensland side (six goals in three games) that completed the qualifying section of the division two championships undefeated to earn a game at the MCG on AFL Grand Final day this year.
After the U/16 Championships he slotted straight back into the Southport side that sits 2nd on the QAFL ladder and kicked three goals against Mt Gravatt. In nine senior games he has kicked eight goals and been a consistently good contributor.
According to Southport football manager, Jason Cotter, Meli provides a spark around the club and is a real character among the playing group.