With a lot of the focus being on the European and North American teams for this year’s AFL International Cup in Melbourne, the teams from the South Pacific have so far managed to slip under the media’s radar.
Papua New Guinea is expected to send a team after its absence at IC14, Tonga will be looking to improve on its winless campaign last time around, while another team aims to upset the apple cart of some teams’ finals aspirations.
At the last International Cup, the Fiji women’s team finished fifth, defeating Tonga by four points and the USA’s development side, the Liberty, by 46 points.
A first-year player then, now captain of the Fijian national side, Siteri Tadrau told Girls Play Footy about the experience of playing at the tournament, especially with many of the team being new to Australian football.
“It was a great opportunity, good exposure for the girls,” Tadrau explained.
“It was a really new sport especially for the girls, as the guys had been playing the sport for quite a while.
“The girls learnt quite a lot … it’s amazing how this game can use all sports in its play.
“A lot of those team members were playing rugby, netball or volleyball; those are the three dominate sports around here”
The women’s performance at the tournament not only helped fuel the fire for the upcoming IC17 campaign, but also changed a lot of the attitudes of the men towards them back in their home country.
“The international tournament has impacted a lot around the world, and I see it especially in Fiji,” Tadrau.
“The stereotype of this just being a men’s game is gone, now the boys in our team have started to respect the girls more, encouraging the girls that are doing training and [working on] their skills.”
Since the end of last year, the Fijians have been putting in the hard work, getting their fitness levels up, working on their game plan and getting in plenty of match practice prior to the tournament’s start in early August.
“Right now we’re training with more than 35 girls preparing for IC17,” Tadrau said.
“Apart for the team training for IC17, there are teams [playing] from every area around Suva.
“We’re expecting four girls teams playing nine-a-side this season.”
The women’s team will land in Melbourne at the start of August to get themselves comfortable with their surroundings, especially the city’s icy wintry weather.
Although the weather may be cold, they are confident of turning the heat up on their opponents and putting themselves in contention for a possible mid-table finish or semi-finals birth.
“We’re planning to come in one week before the actual [first IC] match and have a friendly match, but it hasn’t been confirmed with which club or which team.
“We’re really trying to build that confidence.
“Right now, the girls are determined to win at least three [games] out of the five at IC17.”