AFL International: Australia Furthers Pathways for Aspiring AFL Players Across the Pacific

L-R Head of the Office of The Pacific Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Elizabeth Peak; AFL’s Head of Participation & International, James Ceely; the Hon Lionel Aingimea, Foreign Minister for Naura; the Hon Jesse Jeremiah MP, Minister for Sport for the Republic of Naura and the Hon Maverick Eoe MP, Deputy Minister for Sport for the Republic of Nauru celebrate the partnership extension before Round 6 of the Toyota AFL Premiership Season between the Brisbane Lions and Geelong Cats at The Gabba

The Australian Government is partnering with the Australian Football League (AFL) to enhance high performance pathways for aspiring Australian Rules Footballers across the Pacific.

Funded through the Australian Government’s PacificAus Sports program, the new four-year partnership will provide an equal number of programs for women and men.

It will support the identification and development of talented players, coaches and umpires, and provide access to high performance training in the Pacific and Australia.

Players will will have the opportunity to train and gain placements with the Gold Coast SUNS and Brisbane Lions academies and be exposed to high level competition in Queensland.

The partnership will include the launch of a new AFL Talent Academy in Vanuatu, building on the existing network of academies in Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Fiji, and signalling the continued growth of Australian Rules Football in the Pacific.

The high performance pathway is modelled on the inspiring journey of current Gold Coast SUNS player Hewago Paul ‘Ace’ Oea from Papua New Guinea, the first player from a Pacific talent pathway to make it onto an AFL list. Ace’s journey is a testament to the partnership and the opportunities it provides aspiring players in the Pacific.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Pat Conroy MP:

“Aussie Rules is a uniquely Australian sport, and it’s exciting to see the game continue to grow throughout the region, adding to the many shared sporting and cultural connections between Australia and the Pacific.”

“The Australian Government is thrilled to build on our partnership with the AFL, through PacificAus Sports, to provide more talented Pacific players, coaches and umpires with pathways to high performance training and development.”

Quotes attributable to James Ceely, Head of Participation & International:

“Building on the progress that has been made since the launch of the partnership, we are excited by the prospect of seeing more athletes from the Pacific given the opportunity to be part of a well-structured pathway system and compete in Australia, following in the footsteps of Hewago who made it all the way from Papua New Guinea to the Gold Coast SUNS.”

“The AFL is proud to continue our partnership with the Australian Government through PacificAus Sports, to help identify, develop and grow the Australian rules football talent pool from the Pacific region.

Quotes attributable to Hewago Paul Oea, AFL Gold Coast SUNS player and Program Ambassador: 

“I’m super thankful for the pathways that have allowed me to reach my dream of playing in the AFL. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of great people who helped me develop as a player in Papua New Guinea and Australia.

“I am very passionate about seeing more Pasifika players follow in my footsteps and be given opportunities to hopefully play alongside me in the AFL and possibly the Gold Coast SUNS one day. It’s an opportunity that has changed my life. The PacificAus Sports program will give other athletes from the Pacific region the opportunity to be the best they can be as Australian rules footballers and hopefully make it all the way to the elite level.”

Quotes attributable to Zimmorlei Farquharson, AFLW Western Bulldogs player and Program Ambassador:

“I am so excited to hear that the partnership between the AFL and PacificAus Sports is continuing, providing an incredible opportunity for future generations of players like me. Being part of pathways like this changed my life and now I get to live the dream of playing a sport I love for an AFL Women’s club.

L-R Head of the Office of The Pacific Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Elizabeth Peak; the Hon Don Polye MP, Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science & Technology & Sports for Papua New Guinea; AFL’s Head of Participation & International, James Ceely; His Excellency John Ma’o Kali, High Commissioner for Papua New Guinea and Mr Albert Veratau, CEO of PNG Sports Foundation 

L-R AFL South Pacific Umpire Ambassador Sam Whetton; PacificAus Sports Partnership Manager Sam Ghirardello; Head of the Office of The Pacific Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Elizabeth Peak; Assistant Secretary Pacific Partnerships, Jeff Roach; AFL’s Head of Participation & International, James Ceely and Acting Director for Pacific Partnerships, Taylor Meers 

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