AFL South Pacific Hosts 12th Annual Oceania Cup  

Australian Rules football descended on Fiji when the 12th AFL Youth Oceania Cup was held in Suva from December 5 to 8, where the best and most promising male and female players from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, and Tonga were on show.  

The Oceania Cup is part of the AFL South Pacific High-Performance Pathway, supported by AFL Queensland, the Gold Coast SUNS and Brisbane Lions Academy programs, and the Australian Government through its high performance PacificAus Sports program.   

152 players and 24 coaches took part in the competition, which involved the teams competing in a lightning carnival format before taking part in a round robin tournament. The PNG Bintangs won the male competition and Tonga Storm took home the silverware in the female competition.  

AFL International Development Manager Ben Drew highlighted the importance the Cup plays in the development of footballers from the Pacific.  

“This was the 12th year we held the Oceania Cup, and we continue to discover new talent from across the region, and excitingly we have included for the first time a youth female competition,” he said.   

“This tournament is a major part of our International Talent Pathway, which provides the opportunity for males and females to fulfil their dream and play football at the highest level. 

“James Ceely, our Head of Participation and International at the AFL attended the competition and was impressed by the skill level on show and the overall enthusiasm from the players.  

“Players came from across their countries to be a part of this tournament, with some preparing up to six months in advance, so it was a wonderful opportunity for new and experienced footballers to represent their country.  

“It’s pleasing to see players from this tournament come through the South Pacific High-Performance Pathway and into the Lions and SUNS Academy Programs, following in the footsteps of AFL and AFLW players like Hewago Paul ‘Ace’ Oea and Zimmorlei Farquhason.”  

The tournament also included education sessions for players, umpires and coaches to advance their knowledge of the game and improve the standards of Australian football in their country.   

Australian High Commissioner to Fiji and Special Envoy for the Pacific and Regional Affairs Ewen McDonald attended the tournament and reflected on the growth of the sport in the Pacific. 

“Australia and the Pacific have always shared a deep love of sport, and this is being further strengthened by the growing popularity of Australian Rules Football throughout the region. I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Oceania Cup, and I was very impressed by the level of skill and spirit on display, not only from the players, but also the coaches, support staff and umpires. Through PacificAus Sports, the Australian Government continues to create new opportunities for Pacific athletes to play, grow and train together, and I am excited to see the next wave of Pacific talent working towards future careers in the AFL and AFLW.” 

In addition to the Australian Government, the Oceania Cup is supported by the Governments of Fiji, Tonga, Nauru, and Papua New Guinea.   

As part of the 2023 Oceania Cup program, AFL South Pacific hosted a diplomacy event with special guests at the Grand Pacific Hotel including His Excellency Ewen McDonald, His Excellency Michael Aroi (Nauru), PNG Chef de Mission to Fiji Mr Bill Olmi, Fiji Permanent Secretary for Youth & Sports, AFL NAURU President Wylie Detenamo, AFL Fiji Vice Chair – Saula Tuilevuka, AFL Tonga Director Malakai Mahina and AFL Tonga Director Dr Papani.  

“We extend our thanks to the Australian Government and PacificAus Sports and the Fijian, Tongan, Nauruan, and Papua New Guinean Governments,” Drew said.   

“Their continued support of the South Pacific High-Performance Pathway, the Oceania Cup, and our broader work in the South Pacific helps us to grow the game of Australian football outside of Australia.  

“In 2023, participation in our game across the South Pacific has continued to grow, with an increase of 28 per cent on participation prior to COVID. More than 500 coaches and umpires educated, and over 46 per cent of people involved in our game at all levels are female.”  

From the Oceania Cup, up to 30 male and 30 female players are invited to join the South Pacific Talent Camps in March 2024 where they will play against the SUNS and Lions Academy teams.  


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