Footy fires in Fiji following visit with ADF and DFAT

By Madolyn Sushames

Our great game continues to spread far and wide after a recent visit to Fiji as part of the Australian Defence Force’s Sports Officials Program, in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

AFLQ Umpire Garry Dunne joined Dayne Frew from the Brisbane Lions Academy and AFL South Pacific Development Officer Tom McDonald in running umpire education and coaching sessions for more than 20 participants.


“They were all really engaged and asked a million questions; they loved tackling and were extremely athletic.” Garry said.

“What became obvious to us was that if we put something in place, they’d want to play it.”

Dunne said members of the community would walk past the local sports ground and join in on the drills.

“At lunch time we’d be off having food and the police officers and firefighters would come out and start playing,” he laughed.

“Nothing was ever a problem, everyone got in and helped set things up, pack things down and put it all away all, they all pitched in together.

“A lot of them didn’t know each other so it was great to see some of the friendships that formed out of it.”

The educators conducted one day of umpire training and one day of coaching and by the time they were running drills, the participants were able to officiate.

“That gave them another refresher of the drills they can take back to their clubs,” Garry said.

AFL Fiji’s goal is to expand the local competition in Suva from two Women’s and six Men’s teams to six teams each.

“They already have an understanding of the rules and the basics of the game but as the playing gets better the umpiring and coaching needs to as well,” Garry said.

Moving forward, the team has committed to free online courses and training sessions participants can do from home to continue to develop and upskill.

AFL South Pacific Development Officer Tom McDonald said this program was the first step in launching the new AFL Fiji Talent Academy.

“The AFL Fiji Academy program will join the South Pacific pathway into Queensland and be supported by the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast SUNS Academies in,” he said.

“There were some pretty good players amongst the group.

“Even if it’s just through talent programs we want to give them an opportunity to aspire to get to Australia at some point and then those players, coaches and umpires will end up in Queensland doing different trainings and experiences.”

Tom said the program would also help kickstart the Bula Kick (Auskick) program again after it slowed down in 2020 due to COVID.

“There are some talented youngsters over there,” he said.

International Development Manager Ben Drew said global partnerships like this between the Australian Defence Force and DFAT’s Pacific Aus Sports Program were vital to growing the game and we are very thankful to have this opportunity.

“Our job is to provide a pathway to Queensland which is supported by the Pacific Aus Sports Program,” he said.

“We need to help give our international neighbours more education and training opportunities.  

“It’s also a good opportunity for our staff to work outside of Australia and learn things you never would have before to bring back to AFLQ.”

Ben said the future of footy in Fiji was looking very bright and AFL Queensland was proud to be able to support this program.

Our Supporters