23 Apr 2024

New opportunities open to Pacific AFL players

10:43 am on 23 April 2024
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.

Photo: AFL

New opportunities are opening up for young Pacific people who are keen to play Australian rules football.

The Australian government and the Australian Football League (AFL) have announced that they will be entering into a continuing partnership.

This agreement aims to enhance high-performance pathways for footballers, across the Pacific.

The PacificAus Sports program's new four-year partnership will support the identification and development of players, coaches, and umpires.

The Queensland junior grade AFL competition will provide a pathway for potential Pasifika players.

Players will have the opportunity to train and gain placements with the Gold Coast Suns and Brisbane Lions academies. In this environment, they will be exposed to high-level competition in Queensland.

The partnership will also 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.

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 said his journey is a testament to the success of the partnership and the opportunities it provides aspiring players in the Pacific.

"I'm super thankful for the pathways that have allowed me to reach my dream of playing in the AFL," he said.

"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."

He said 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 to the elite level.

Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, said they are thrilled to be providing more opportunities for Pacific talents.

"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," he said.

"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."

AFL's head of participation and international, James Ceely, said they are excited about the future of Pacific AFL.

"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," he said.

"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."