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The spirit of football - a Papuan perspective

  • Sunday, January 23 2005 @ 09:56 am ACDT
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Oceania One of the success stories of Australian Football has been Papua New Guinea. The game has had a solid base in Australia's northern neighbour for several decades, but it has recently been boosted with the AFL assisting in junior development. World Footy News has had several stories on the sport there, and some of the talented juniors coming from the country, but the following is from the AFL PNG itself, a body responsible for growing the game at junior level. AFL PNG Limited – A Profile

AFL PNG Limited has been established as the representative of the Australian Football League in Papua New Guinea.

We commenced operations in 2001 and currently have a 7 person Board, 9 full time staff with associate organisations across the three Regions of PNG and a number of key programs and partnerships operating throughout the country. The organisation has been set up with a carefully designed corporate structure which ensures stability and the ability to set and pursue long and medium term plans. Board members are appointed by the AFL and are responsible to all stakeholders in the setting of policy and strategy. Financial transparency and accountability are key drivers of all activities.

AFL PNG is primarily responsible for looking after AFL junior development programs in PNG which include our National Player Pathway which leads all the way from the village to the MCG. We work closely with the PNG Rules Football Council, which is responsible for Senior players from 18 years of age, but we are entirely independent entities.

AFL football has been played in PNG since the 1930s and remains popular across the country. The mandate from the AFL is to design, introduce and operate junior development programs based around the AFL game, but which have a carefully designed community focus. AFL PNG’s mission is to develop AFL football in PNG from a solid grassroots foundation to be the nation’s leading sport. Our ultimate goal is to provide opportunities for young Papua New Guineans to achieve success in their sport and in their lives as a whole.

An obvious part of our plan is to foster young Papua New Guineans' natural athletic ability and to guide them through a carefully designed pathway which will give the very best of them the opportunity to play AFL football at the highest level.

As a young developing nation social problems are a major issue for PNG. AFL PNG is committed to helping address these issues in a positive way. A key component of our programs is the inclusion of lifestyle rules which teach and instil self discipline, teamwork and the vital lesson that opportunity and success can only be achieved through hard work. A welcome by-product of our programs will be a group of boys and girls better equipped for success and more prepared to take advantage of opportunities as productive members of their local communities.

We also recognise that Papua New Guineans have a natural freedom of spirit and that their diverse cultural and sporting experience can bring a great deal that is new or forgotten to Australia and the World in both a sporting sense and in a broader cultural sense. It is with that in mind that we have adopted a philosophy to ensure our children learn and play the game in its purest form, hence our guiding philosophy:

Pure AFL.... Purely Papua New Guinea. At AFL PNG we believe the AFL game in its purest form is perhaps the world’s most natural, free flowing, innate ball sport. In PNG the game has always been played with the flair and skills which come so naturally to the people of this amazing country. PNG boys play solely out of enjoyment; to relish the feeling of victory after they kick a freak goal, to hear the roar from the crowd as they baulk an opponent and run down the wing or to feel the ultimate thrill as they launch themselves on to the shoulders of their opponent to take a high mark 3 or 4 metres from the ground. In professional AFL we think something has been lost or forgotten in the way our game is now played. It's no longer Pure AFL, and seems burdened by its success and the great heights it has reached.

At AFL PNG we believe that Pure AFL is still alive; especially through the amazing skills and talents of the 60+ Aboriginal players on AFL lists. At times it can seem as if they are playing a game no-one else plays – we think they just remember how to play Pure AFL. Just as the natural athletic talents of the boys of both cultures are similar, there are of course also parallels and links between the Aboriginal community in Australia and the indigenous tribal culture of PNG. We hope that before too long more PNG boys will be joining their Aboriginal brothers in the AFL.

Our guiding philosophy at AFL PNG is to foster Pure AFL so that one day soon some of our boys will be able take back to the fans of AFL the purity of the game which some of us think it may have lost.

We believe our programs and goals will benefit all Papua New Guineans and all AFL supporters. We look forward to your support.

The Directors,
AFL PNG Limited