The Pacific region’s most talented young male and female footballers have arrived in Fiji for the 12th edition of the AFL Youth Oceania Cup carnival to be held from December 5-8.
The AFL Oceania Cup has been an integral part of the AFLs South Pacific talent pathway since 2009, with teams from Nauru, PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, New Zealand and Samoa all having competed in previous cups. Funded by the Australian Government’s high performance PacificAus Sports program, this year’s edition will see male and female teams from Fiji, Nauru, Tonga, and PNG vying for the ultimate bragging rights.
The tournament continues to provide a foundation for the most talented players across the Pacific to fulfil their dreams and play for their countries. Each player competing at the cup is considered for selection to the AFL South Pacific Talent Camp programs to be held on the Gold Coast in March 2024. These camps are supported by AFL QLD, the Gold Coast Suns and Brisbane Lions Academy programs, with academy products, Hewago Paul ‘Ace’ Oea and Zimmorlei Farquharson, now at the beginning of promising AFL/AFLW careers and providing inspiration for the next generation of Pacific footballers.
This year’s Oceania Cup will include a Lightning Carnival as a curtain raiser to the main tournament, where a round robin format will see teams compete for a spot in the much-anticipated grand finals on the last day. The tournament will also provide valuable experience off the field, with education sessions planned for players and coaches alike.
The full schedule can be found below:
While all players will be lighting up the field, here are some particular stars to look out for:
Mokani Ulufonua will be the Thunder’s centre half forward, arguably the most important position in the game. He plays tall and will crash packs with the best of them.
Soane Junior Taulanga is a strong bodied defender who has impressed at high school level and looks set to take another step at the Oceania Cup.
Liliani Valenisia Taika Fine is a potent key forward target who will be a difficult match up for opposition defenders and a natural leader to boot.
Milika Siakumi Taupeamuhu is an outstanding athlete renowned in Tonga already for her skills and abilities in several football codes. She will shore up the Storm backline at full back while being more than capable of turning defence into attack via a turn of pace.
Nauru Stars (M)
Ferrari Batsiua is talented and highly skilful with a great balance of agility and evasiveness. He is dangerous both in the air with a strong grab and at ground level as he is very clean below his knees. A hard worker who sharpens all aspects of his game from fitness to skills and a positive attitude.
Red Grundler is a 15-year-old who has outshone the competition by taking home this year's leading goal kicker award in the local U17 tournament. Very smart with ball in hand around goals and is rarely beaten one-on-one. Red is building nicely and is working hard to take his game to the next level. A name for the future who has plenty of potential and is eager to test himself against the best.
Nauru Stars (F)
Keleejaye Bingham is a very damaging ball user and is super agile. Quick, physical, courageous and voted captain by her peers, Bingham’s accolades have come playing in the women’s (league Best and Fairest), mixed U14 and girls U17. She claimed another Best and Fairest in the U17s and was best on for Tigeress in their premiership win.
Meliana Dagagio is a very skillful player and so composed. At a young age Meliana started playing in boys’ sides and this clearly helped her in the U17s. Her strong build, overhead ability and ground ball work are standouts. The leading goalkicker will be tough to beat.
Fiji Jnr Tribe
Iliasa Vualiku is a clever and nimble goal sneak who played for the Tigers in the recent Academy Carnival Day. Strong over the ball and quick on his feet, look out for Iliasa around goals!
Tuitoga Aminiasii is a key forward who played for the Cats in the recent Academy Carnival Day. With a tremendous leap and strong body, Tuitoga will be a focal point for the Fiji Jnr Tribe throughout the week.
Fiji Jnr Vonu
Ruci Rasari is a key position player who can play at either end of the ground. Ruci played for the Cats team in the recent Academy Carnival Day. Look out for Ruci in the aerial battles throughout the week.
Salote Verevalu is a fast, running small defender who sets up the game from defence to attack. Playing for the Lions team in the recent Academy Carnival Day, Salote showed great skill and pace. Look for her rebounding from defence across the week.
Allan Sevara is a strong and skilful player who takes on his opponents at every opportunity. A fierce competitor, look out for Allan leading the way through the midfield.
Caleb Kunjil hails from Mt Hagen in the Highlands region, and although fairly new to our game, Caleb has electric pace which allows him to close down his opponents and rebound from defence.
Samantha Franklin may be small but the courageous goal sneak from the Gerehu Magpies in Port Moresby has speed to burn and a terrific ability to find the goals!
Macklyn Hendingao is a highly skilled midfielder from Lae who has been in terrific form back home. She is known to bust tackles with the best and drives through contests to set up her teammates around the ground.
Be sure to follow the AFL South Nations Facebook page for all the results and action from the tournament, and keep an eye out for our post-Cup wrap-up in the coming weeks.
Source: Tournament information shared by AFL South Pacific Nations.