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Tonga AFL

March 28, 2011

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Tania Nugent: I'm in Tonga this week where a unique code of football is making its mark in this rugby union mad region. Tonga is hosting the AFL Oceania Youth Cup, with players representing eight Pacific nations taking part. It's an amazing opportunity when you consider that many of these players only recently started playing the game. And for the AFL its exciting times, as this unique brand of football is capturing the hearts of Pacific Islanders.


Gideon Simon - AFL Recruit: I think AFL; it 's a very beautiful game, and tough. It's coming a big popular game in the South pacific, and everybody's loving it.

Andrew Cadzow - AFL Oceania Development Manager: In the Pacific I reckon there's sort of 38 to 42,000, playing the game and playing the game in a semi-serious note, an Auskick program or school competition..

Gideon Simon: I think, hopefully someday I will go to Australian and play with those tough guys there.

Tania Nugent:To inspire guys like Gideon the AFL has brought some Pacific stars to the Tonga tournament - Fijian Nic Naitanui was the number 2 pick in 2008 AFL draft and plays for the West Coast Eagles. Legendary Rugby League player and Tongan national Israel Folau has recently made the switch to AFL and is under contract with the Sydney Giants.

Nick Naitanui - AFL Professional Player:We're just over here promoting Aussie Rules Football and you know just trying to help out the youth.

Israel Folau:The main games in the pacific is rugby union and rugby league so it's little bit weird as well for me, been playing rugby league my whole life and now I'm seeing a different game.
I think it's a chance for them to switch codes and they can do it, it takes a bit of time, and you know, certainly I know the scouts and AFL officials can see that

Gideon Simon:That man is from a club in Melbourne, Richmond Tigers

Matt Clarke - Richmond Football Club Scout:Over here helping out the AFL, their PNG and Tongan program the pacific program and obviously looking for new talent. We've got two boys, Gideon Simon and Nathan Malbec and in the PNG academy in Port Moresby, which is really exciting. We see a really exciting opportunity for more recruits to come to Australia and play AFL football and we see the Pacific as a really good breeding ground for Aussie Rules.

I think they bring a bit of an X-factor to the game, because of their athletic traits. The PNG boys obviously are a fairly dynamic sorts of kids, they are very quick and very lateral, the Tongan boys, obviously like Israel Folau are physically, and athletically a lot bigger than a lot of the Australian guys.

Tania Nugent:It's these two countries that face each other in the finals - Tonga and Papua New Guinea, with PNG taking the Oceania Cup. But at the other end of the competition ladder there are winners too.

For the Solomon Islands AFL is still a grassroots game, introduced recently by Australians from RAMSI - the Regional Assistance Mission for the Solomon Islands.

Chris Tarohimae - Solomon Islands Team:The team comes from one community in Honiara, they have been playing together, the boys have been playing together for about 5 years now, just themselves with some of the RAMSI officers and police officers, but they come from Namuliki. It's a squatter settlement in Honiara.

Graeme Wilson - Solomon Islands Coach:It's a fantastic thing, because 21 of the 24 boys have never been on a plane before, they are nearly all from the settlement area, so they are struggling. So it's fantastic for them not only to be here but also to win their first game today to beat the very strong NZ team to finish fifth, is a wonderful effort for them and for the Solomon islands.

State building is one thing, but need to have that sense of nation and one of the great ways of getting that is through sport in my view, and there's a clear demonstration today of how proud they are representing their country and I think when they go back the people of Solomons will be very proud of the team as well.

Chris Tarohimae - Solomon Islands Team:I think they have seen the whole point after playing for so many years. They know that there's something at the end of their playing, that there's a tournament there that they can build on and do something with AFL. And let's say there is future of AFL in the Solomons.





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