A Pacific plan for the development of Aussie Rules
They AFL needs to step up its funding and develop the game more within the Pacific region.
Australia is not a big player in the world and does not have a global footprint, but in the Oceania region the smaller nations take notice of Australia and we do have a regional footprint.
It recently came to my attention that Nauru has been suffering some strife in their football league. The local league was shut down because of excessive violence due to generational grudge matches, incited by coaches to stir up their players on the field. In 2006 it went too far when, after too many incidents, spectators invaded the field and a large brawl erupted.
But there is hope for football in Nauru. The national team have been preparing for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup from August 27th to September 6th.
Nauru carried out a series of trial matches to select their national squad. Mathew Batsiua, the Nauru Sports Minister, has indicated that 17 of their squad have already been sent to Victoria to play a season in the Victorian Country Football League. The other 7 in their squad will join them later in the year.
It is exciting to know that these young players are getting exposed to some good competition in Australia. Who knows, we may even see some of them getting selected as AFL recruits.
There is strong local competition in both New Zealand and Papua New Guinea now.
New Zealand have five leagues across the country. Papua New Guinea has 7 leagues with 64 teams in total.
Aussie Rules is less developed in Samoa. There are only four teams there at the moment. Tonga will also have a team at the International Cup. At this point Solomon Islands and Fiji will not.
AFL recruiters are starting to wake up to the possible talent pool that exists in the Pacific. The Western Bulldogs have been taking keen interest in Fiji. David Rodan, a Fijian and Port Power player, is an ambassador for Aussie Rules Pacific and is keen to promote the game in his native Fiji.
Mal Michael, an Essendon player, is a native of PNG and has already been promoting the game there. He is in fact a household name, having appeared in TV commercials.
There is a bright future for Aussie Rules in the Oceanic region. Many young players there can aspire to a successful sporting career in the AFL that they could never have at home.
The AFL will do well to not miss this opportunity, but to pour as much money into the Pacific as their budget will allow.