Australian rules football in Oceania

Australian rules football in Oceania is the sport of Australian rules football as it is watched and played in the Oceanian continent.

Action from the 2008 Australian Football International Cup featuring Nauruan player kicking a Sherrin

Today the sport is most popular in Nauru where it is the national sport,[1] and Australia, where the AFL is the most attended football code.

There are currently organised open age leagues in seven nations (including Australia) around the Pacific, while in at least four other nations there have been participation in the sport. The sport is broadcast on television in most of these countries, particularly the AFL Grand Final, however outside of Australia (where it receives record breaking broadcast rights) and New Zealand it is only broadcast on satellite television or cable television.

Some players from the Pacific region have become notable for playing in the elite Australian Football League however to date Papua New Guinea and New Zealand are the only countries from which players have been directly recruited. Players from other countries have been offered scholarships.

Australian football began in Australia and also spread to New Zealand in the 19th Century, however it was no longer played by the time of the First World War, the currently existing leagues having been founded in the 1970s.

The Australian Football International Cup competition began 2002 open to all Australian Football playing countries except Australia. It has been held every three years since and has included many teams from the region. Papua New Guinea and New Zealand being the most successful of the region.

A bid was made to include Australian football as an event in 2007 South Pacific Games which was hosted by Fiji, however it failed to qualify due to not qualifying the number of participating nations.[2]

AFL Oceania (which does not include Australia) is affiliated to the AFL Commission and was formed in 2008 as a regional governing and development body.[3] From 2010 a South Pacific representative team has participated in Division 2 of the AFL Under 16 Championships [4]


Australian rules is one of the most popular sports in Australia and has over 800,000 players.

It is home to the professional Australian Football League competition which is the most attended sporting league in the country and is also home to leagues in every state and territory as well as women's leagues, amateur leagues, junior leagues and recreational leagues .


David Rodan who holds the AFL games record for a Fijian born player, has acted as an international ambassador for the sport and has a passion to see the sport succeed in Fiji.[5]

Fiji has produced several professional players for the Australian Football League, however organised Australian rules did not begin there until 2009.

The governing body for the sport on the islands is AFL Fiji, created in 2009.[6]

History in FijiEdit

The first television broadcasts of matches by the Australia Network began in 2002. In the period 2004–2008, a proposal for a serious ongoing Australian Rules football competition was mooted by former Fiji Police Commissioner, Andrew Hughes. Hughes had played footy at various amateur levels in Australia and was keen to promote it when he arrived in Fiji to take up his post as the nation's top cop. In mid-2004, Hughes, based in Suva, called a meeting within the Fiji police force of officers interested in assisting with his vision of using the force itself as the basis for developing and promoting a local footy competition. According to one who was present at that initial meeting in the Police Officers Mess, ‘Hughes himself was to be the trainer and teacher’ of the new code. A second meeting was held in Lautoka for interested officers based in the West. According to the Police Public Relations Officer at the time, Mesake Koroi, ‘many top rugby players joined in and it started off well, but there was no one except Hughes to run the [programme], so it was hard because, of course, he had other police work to attend to’. This then was the first effort to establish the sport in Fiji.[7] The Fijian Australian Football Association was formed as a governing body but the sheer weight of workload for Hughes meant the FAFA went into recess without creating an organised league. (A failed bid was made for inclusion of the sport into the 2007 South Pacific Games held in Fiji.[2]). Meanwhile, the Western Bulldogs became the first AFL club to actively scouting for recruits in Fiji.[8] This project was later announced to begin with open trials in Suva and Labasa in October of that year 2004. 16 year-old Solomon Loki and 19 year-old Inoke Ratu were added to the Western Bulldogs International scholarship lists. They were not able to take up their offers regrettably because of visa obstructions arising out of Fiji's 2006 coup.

Additionally, in early 2005, representatives the Fiji Daily Post (FDP) newspaper (Alan Hckling publisher; Mesake Koroi then general manager; and editor Robert Wolfgramm), met with Police Commissioner Hughes to alert him of their interest in promoting the code and to work with other like-minded locals and expats by giving publicity to footy through the newspaper. As the 2005 pre-season began, Melbourne-based footy enthusiast, Lex Neander, began filing match summaries for the FDP. His column soon turned into a weekly full page run every Tuesday which continued until the end of the 2008 Australian footy season.

In 2008 meanwhile, pushing footy in Fiji then fell to Fiji-born, David Rodan jnr, the professional player who began with Richmond but was then with Port Adelaide football club. David had long expressed an interest in bringing the code to Fiji and was anointed the AFL's official ambassador for the code. In 2008 his plans were shared with fellow Port Adelaide recruit, Alipate Carlile, and physical education teacher and wife-to-be, Carla Di Pasquale. Together they explored the possibility of Port Adelaide football club joining with him to re-establish the code here in Fiji by means of a new body - ‘AFL Fiji’. In a historic presentation to the PA football club, the Rodan-led trio outlined a proposed logo, a playing strip, and a timeline for establishing the code in Fiji. The trio also outlined where the Hughes initiative failed, and proposed a strategy for future success. The AFL accepted the grand design of his vision and partnered Rodan's initiative with their representative, Andrew Cadzow, who was overseeing "AFL Asia-Pacific" in Brisbane.

In July 2009, Andrew arrived at Suva's Holiday Inn on behalf of the AFL with a brief to develop a plan and establish a steering committee to drive the Rodan-inspired vision into reality. The chief question because Rodan was still playing footy in Australia, was who on the ground would take the interest in footy to concretise it, give it substance, make it work. In response to a newspaper advertisement, fifteen Fiji locals turned up on the July 10th and 11th to hear what Andrew cadzow proposed. Apologies to the meeting were received from David Rodan snr, David Rodan jnr, Carla Di Pasquale, John and Marilyn (from Levuka homestay), and Mareta (from Iwala Events). But among those present were Peter Fulcher, Damian Ames and Pam, Nemani and Biri Rokobuli, Lia Ratu and son Inoke, Vasenai Loki and son Solo, Caroline Narruhn and son Joseph, and Lupe Wolfgramm and her sons, Max and Dylan (who had playing experience as juniors in Melbourne beforehand). From this formative group, Damian Ames was appointed inaugural Chairman. Pam, the Rokobuli and Loki families, as well as Caroline Narruhn were nominated to the Steering Committee.

During the meeting, Cadzow also outlined a future for an "AFL Fiji" that could potentially involve a calendar of events packed with school programmes, talent searches, Auskick/Fijikick rollouts, the presence of a youth ambassador, corporate sponsorships, and participation in Oceania and International Cup championships – all to be overseen by a structured AFL Fiji steering committee and advisory board. The immediate aim was to get up and running, organized and operational, by September 2009, with an official AFL Fiji launch in October as part of the inaugural David Rodan Cup Under 16s competition. That inter-school competition would serve as a filter for local players to join a new national team to compete in December 2009, in an inaugural Under 16s Oceania Cup championships hosted in Fiji.

After the AFL creation of the "AFL Oceania" in Australia in 2008, Fiji was identified as a major target for Australian rules football development in the region. AFL Fiji's formation in mid-2009, by the creation of national committee.[6] In August (2009), Dylan Wolfgramm was selected to be Fiji's representative in an Oceania Under 23 team to play exhibition matches in Cairns on the occasion of the sitting of the Pacific Islands Forum there. Kevin Rudd and other leaders were present to witness the Mal Michael-coached Oceania team win a match against a North Queensland representative side. In September (2009) a newly formed AFL Fiji Steering Committee met at the Holiday Inn and comprised: Tony Moore, Jordan Moore, Lupe Wolfgramm, Max Wolfgramm, Dylan Wolfgramm, Inoke Ratu, Lia Ratu, Solo Loki, Vasenai Loki, Damian Ames, Alex Hales (from the Fiji Daily Post), Caroline Narruhn, Joseph Narruhn, David Rodan Snr, David Rodan Jnr, and Carla Di Pasquale. The meeting settled dates for a forthcoming official launch of AFL Fiji and to set dates for and inaugural "David Rodan Cup" and inter-Pacific "Oceania Cup". ‘Super-clinics’ were also planned at Marist, Grammar, Dudley, Cathedral, International, Laucala Bay and Gospel secondary schools, along with training of development officers necessary for completing the preparatory skilling tasks. Volunteers were assigned for finding sponsorships, game venues, and maintaining the media profile of AFL Fiji.

In the second week of October 2009, the AFL's Andrew Cadzow arrived and co-launched "AFL Fiji". Coinciding with this, Chris Maple and others from the Western Bulldogs Football Club had begun running footy clinics and searches at various locations around Fiji. “With their rugby background they’re used to physical contact, they’re athletic, and from what I’ve seen today they’re very hard working – all the traits needed for AFL football,” Maple told Dale Carruthers, a Canadian journalist attached to the Fiji Daily Post newspaper. New AFL Fiji chairman, Damian Ames, also told the newspaper that Fiji was an ideal ground for introducing the code - “It’s an untapped source of athletes,” Ames said. But the major challenges of introducing the code Damian admitted was that “rugby is so entrenched here [in Fiji].” Ames, Cadzow and other supporters attended and co-supervised clinics held at Suva Grammar School on 14 October, and later at Marist Brothers, while Bulldog representatives Maple and crew were at Yat Sen School doing their talent search.

Following these first tentative steps to gauge local interest, on Friday 16 October 2009, AFL Fiji was modestly, officially and publicly launched with about thirty in attendance in the Banyan Room at Suva's Holiday Inn. Australia's High Commissioner, James Batley, kindly accepted my invitation to do the honours with best wishes for the future. Three days later, 19 October, the Diwali Day public holiday, Fiji "first footy carnival" leading to the "David Rodan Cup" was held. At the end of round-robin matches, the inaugural cup was awarded to Laucala Bay Secondary College, with Runners Up Suva Grammar School; and 3rd Place to Cathedral Secondary School, with 4th Place: Gospel High School. From these four teams, a "Fiji Power" squad was picked to contest the forthcoming inaugural "Oceania Cup" to be held in December (2009). The squad was named as: Laijiasa Bolenaivalu, Fuata Silisoma, Ropate Tobe, Darryll Arthur-Valentine, Jonathan Chongkit, Jiuta Vateitei, Viliame Tuni, Esekia Gibbons, Joeli Logavatu, Gabriel Ledua, Eroni Niumataiwalu, Anasa Yabaki, Wilson Kacivi, Penisoni Tuiova, Richard Niulevu, Semisi Apakuki, Sisa Qarikau, Kinivuwai Nanovo, Paula Rokotuiloma, Samuela Delai, Semi Tikoitoga, Titus Raihman, Ledua Tuberi, Mesake Dakai, Yabaki Cakautini, John Tuivanuakula, Solo Ratu, Dylan Wolfgramm, and Luke Gucake.

The inaugural ‘Under 16 Oceania Cup’ was held at Cathedral Secondary School grounds, 11–13 December (2009). Nauru, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji teams competed. In blustery weather, the fiercely but fairly contested Cup went to Tonga. All Pacific teams would head to Tonga in 2010. In the meantime, footy clinics were conducted in schools around the Suva-Nausori area with training sessions organised weekly at Albert Park in downtown Suva.

In 2010, a schools tournament was held, with more than 80 students from 14 different schools in Suva and Nausori represented in six teams that played round robin matches.[9] The "Fiji Power" national team made its first appearance at the Under 16 Oceania Cup in Tonga in December 2010.[10]

A senior team entered the 2011 Australian Football International Cup and were highly successful, taking the Division 2 title after dominating the Grand Final against France.[11]

A local league with four teams (Nausori Cats, Raiwaqa Bulldogs, Suva City Swans and Suva Lions) has since commenced.

Fijian Players in the VFL/AFLEdit

Player Connection to Fiji VFL/AFL Years* VFL/AFL Matches*
Nic Naitanui Parents[12] 2009 - 32
Alipate Carlile Born, mother 2006 - 74
Setanta Ó hAilpín Mother (Rotuman) 2005 - 72
David Rodan Born, to Fijian-born Tongan mother and Tongan father[13][14][12] 2002 - 150
Wes Fellowes Mother 1981–1989 102
Charlie Moore Born 1897–1899 30
Aaron Hall Mother[12] 2012- 97
Aisake Ó hAilpín Mother 2004-2008 0 (VFL only)[15]
Tom Nicholls Mother 2011- 45
Esava Ratugolea Parents[16] 2017- 8
  • stats up to June, 2018


Action from Linkbelt stadium, Nauru

Australian rules football in Nauru dates back to the 1930s and quickly established itself as the national sport of the country.

New CaledoniaEdit

Social football has been played in Nouméa by Australian, French and New Zealander expats since around 2008.[17]

New ZealandEdit

Australian rules football was introduced to New Zealand by Australian emigrants in the early 20th century and a New Zealand national team took part in one of the first State of Origin carnivals (1908). The game then died out in the country around the time of the First World War, later resurrected in the 1970s. The game is currently governed by the New Zealand Australian Football League, with regional leagues in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch. The New Zealand national team, dubbed the Falcons, are one of the strongest outside Australia, finishing third in the first Australian Football International Cup in 2002, winning the competition in 2005 and has been a finalist in all International Cups.

Papua New GuineaEdit

Papua New Guinea's Mosquitos celebrate taking the International Cup from New Zealand to become International champions in 2008

Papua New Guinea has the largest number of registered Australian rules footballers outside Australia, with senior and junior competitions in most major population centres. With a large depth of players PNG is a consistently strong performer in international competition having competed in all AFL International Cups as a grand finalist. The sport in PNG is controlled by the PNG Rules Football Council.


Samoans line up for the national anthem at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.

Australian rules football in Samoa has been played since 1997. The national team, known as the Bulldogs first competed at the Arafura Games in 1998. There is a full-time development officer funded by AusAid, a junior development program and a schoolboy's tournament. Samoa has competed in all AFL International Cups except 2011achieving mid placed rankings.

Solomon IslandsEdit

Australian rules football was first played in the Solomon Islands in 2003 with some junior clinics held by Garry McKenzie and members of the Australian Defence Force, stationed in the country to help restore order after years of civil unrest. The first AGM of the Solomon Islands Australian Football Association was held in August 2004 at the National Sports Centre, with around 100 people attending, almost all being locals[citation needed]. The committee was elected and subsequently met to discuss plans for developing the code, especially for 12- to 18-year-olds. By the end of 2004 there were two senior teams playing friendly matches and around 150 juniors had participated in games.

Since 2004, junior clinics have been held regularly in Honiara, and the Solomon Islands' first representative squad will compete at the AFL Oceania Under 18 Championships in December 2010.[18][19]

A youth development officer will be working in cricket and Australian rules development in the islands from 2011.[20]


Australian rules football in Tonga has been played since 2003, when the Tonga Australian Football Association was founded. A schools competition has been played yearly since then, including a tour to Samoa and the national team has competed against the Fitzroy Reds amateur team from Australia. In its debut appearance at the 2011 AFL International Cup Tonga finished a highly credible ninth position out of 18 competing countries.


Australian rules football has been played in Vanuatu since 2006, when AFL Queensland volunteers from the Gold Coast, Queensland set up a Rec Footy competition. The program expanded in 2008 to include an Auskick junior development program.[21]

The AFL Vanuatu was formally created in 2010, and nominated five Vanuatu local youths to compete at the Under 16s Oceania Cup, to be held in Tonga in December 2010.[22]

Oceanian performance at International CupEdit

Flag Nation Nickname 2002 2005 2008 2011
  Fiji Tribe - - - 12th
  New Zealand Hawks 3rd 1st 2nd 4th
  Nauru Chiefs 8th - 5th 7th
  Papua New Guinea Mosquitos 2nd 2nd 1st 3rd
  Samoa Kangaroos 7th 5th 10th -
  Timor-Leste Crocs - - - 17th
  Tonga Tigers - - - 11th


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ AFL dream for Nauru footy players Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Football's South Pacific Paradise by Brett Northey for World Footy News. September 04 2004
  3. ^ Full steam ahead for AFL Oceania from
  4. ^
  5. ^ Rodan plans to put Fiji on footy map
  6. ^ a b AFL Fiji meetings planned
  7. ^ Fiji footy gets the ball rolling
  8. ^ Bulldogs look for island treasures
  9. ^ Hawks win AFL David Rodan Cup
  10. ^ Fiji names final squad for Under 16 Oceania Cup
  11. ^ The Fiji Tribe conquering at AFL International Cup (
  12. ^ a b c "Latest AFL News, features and breaking AFL News". Sportal. 9 October 2014. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  13. ^ 118 players with multicultural background on AFL lists
  14. ^ "Former players from all corners of the world celebrate AFL multicultural round". Herald Sun. 20 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Ohailpins AFL Shift". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  16. ^ "Esava rocks Aussie Rules". Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  17. ^ New Caledonia - The next Outpost in Pacific footy
  18. ^ "AFL Team Tonga Bound". Archived from the original on 7 December 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  19. ^ "A Local AFL Team gears up for Tonga Competition". Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  20. ^ "RAMSI Crocs take out major award". Archived from the original on 30 November 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  21. ^ The Vanuatu Daily Post - AFL Auskick kicks off in Vanuatu Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ AFL Vanuatu is born, and uses Tonga trip to announce itself

External linksEdit