AFL Development Coordinator South Pacific Simon Highfield confirmed this after a successful turnout in the Under 16 program that accommodated 25 players from Nauru, PNG, Vanuatu and Fiji, earlier this month.
“Although AFL may not be THE major sport of PNG or Fiji, the participation rate is growing rapidly, and we are finding more and more boys, girls, men and women playing our game in some capacity.”
“From the expanding school and community programs across all our countries, to the increasing senior men’s and women’s competitions, we have seen over 200,000 participants taking part in AFL programs across six countries in the South Pacific (PNG, Fiji, Nauru, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tonga) every year,” he said.
Australian Football League has been played since World War 2 and is now a major sport in two countries.
“AFL is also the national sport of Nauru, so it is obvious that our great game will only continue to grow. With AFL being the major sport in Australia, and Australia being such a close neighbor to these Pacific countries, it’s clear to think that we will only continue to grow and more and more people will fall in love with our sport, as we all have,” Highfield said.
Meanwhile, the 2019 South Pacific Talent Camp brings in our identified most-talented kids from across PNG, Fiji, Nauru and Vanuatu to Australia to compete as a South Pacific U16 team.
“They played in the Gold Coast SUNS Academy Championships against other boys from the Gold Coast, Northern Rivers and North Queensland in order to be selected in the U16 Gold Coast SUNS Talent Academy. This Academy side is then eligible to be selected for the Queensland State Team to play in the U16 National Championships. Our South Pacific region therefore falls into the Queensland Talent Pathway, and we are very proud of our boys in making the trip to Australia, but also to the six boys that were selected in the Gold Coast SUNS Academy that will travel back to Australia next week.”
“They will play games against the Brisbane Lions Academy over a two-match series before entering the Queensland State Team. It is a wonderful achievement for these boys and, once again, we are extremely proud,” he added.