Samoa a "pillar" for Oceania footy
The AFL’s recently appointed Oceania Development manager Andrew Cadzow last month undertook a “whirlwind” tour or Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand (meeting only), to help him better understand the region’s football needs.
WFN spoke to Cadzow about his time in Samoa. The island nation has shown football potential in the past, which even attracted a Richmond delegate, Craig Cameron to investigate the possibility of awarding a scholarship to a local player, through the AFL's International Rookie program. On the downside, the country has only managed irregular senior football matches and has at times struggled to break down negative perceptions that the game lacks “physicality” (compared with the more established Rugby).
Cadzow spent a few days in Samoa with AFL Samoa’s Development Manager, Michael Roberts. He was undertaking an audit, to allow medium to long term planning, and to meet current stakeholders. This audit revealed:
-A strong potential to grow the game in Samoa
-Strong potential to target, educate and harness talent from Samoa and the Oceania region
-Opportunity to continue to grow game in schools and villages
-No racial tension. A focus on family, village and church
-Minimal organised sport -Rugby Union is the most popular sport, but it is only available to a small percentage
-Good support of the current program from expatriate Australians
-Government and Australian High Commission support
-Media: Proactive and starved of sports stories
-Good facilities. Opportunity to hold leadership/community AFL camps and testing days etc.
-Potential to formalise and structure strong talent identification and testing procedures
-School Programs (Auskick etc.) welcome in all schools. Local competition in place but sporadic
-Sports and Village activity go hand in hand. No resources and no organisation
Apart from conducting the audit, Cadzow had meetings with the Australian High Commission, AFL committee, media outlets, Olympic committee and AVI (Volunteers abroad).
He took training for Samoa’s International Cup squad, and was impressed with the talent, particularly the team’s younger players.
He was also impressed with how hard AFL Samoa was working to get to the International Cup. Cadzow saw Samoa as “one of the pillars to build the Oceania brand of AFL.”
Hopefully, now that the AFL has identified the opportunity to grow our game in Samoa and the greater Oceania region, we will see expanded support for local competitions and pathways implemented to direct appropriate players to competitions in Australia.