Western Panthers make debut in Nadi


Courtesy of The Fiji Times

THE Australia Football League (AFL) Fiji created history yesterday by holding its first match at the Airports Fiji Ltd ground in Namaka, Nadi yesterday.

Though played on a smaller rugby union-sized ground, the organisers were happy with the turnout and the interest shown by the players who were mostly teenagers.

AFL Fiji development officer and national coach Simon Highfield said the sport was still in the development stage in the country.

“We have to start slowly,” Highfield said. "But we had 30 boys attend the first match in Nadi which was great.

“They are all young and have an interest in playing the game. This is the first game ever to be played in Nadi.”

At the 2017 AFL International Cup in Melbourne, Australia last month, Fiji Vonu claimed fifth place while Fiji Tribe was placed eighth.

Highfield said their long-term goal was to get support staff based in Nadi organising a regular competition on a standard ground.

He said one of their biggest drawbacks was finding a standard venue.

“We want to have some staff based in Nadi doing community and schools programs and growing the sport,” Highfield said.

“We want to see more boys and girls taking up the sport and playing in regular competition by setting up a Nadi competition which rivals our Suva competition.

“We are happy with our participation in the AFL International Cup 2017. The men moved up the rankings which is a very good sign. The best thing for us was how we competed. We lost a couple of games by three points.

“In previous years we would have lost those games by 100 points. So it just shows the improvement in the sport. We want to stay patient and positive.

“We are looking forward to other international tournaments in the future in which Fiji will be a force to be reckoned with.

“The boys and girls want to play the sport which is fantastic. But the biggest problem for us is finding a venue to actually play. We used a rugby ground in Nadi which is good for 20 players.

“But when you start getting 18-a-side, with normal AFL rules, we need a larger ground. We have one in Suva at Albert Park which is a great facility.”


namaka, fiji

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