Brendan Beno is one of nine PNG players on an AFL International Scholarship

Papua New Guinea AFL Taskforce announced

Monday, September 26, 2011

The AFL is pleased to announce it will partner with the Federal Government to launch a Papua New Guinea AFL Taskforce to expand Australian football in the region.

The Taskforce will include Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs, the Hon Richard Marles MP, Papua New Guinean-born and three-time premiership player Mal Michael, DFAT representative (and former Richmond player) Ray Hall, AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods, AFL PNG Chairman Scott Reid, key PNG government and business representatives and AusAID representatives. Mr Marles and PNG Foreign Minister Mr Ano Pala will act as co-chairmans.

The inaugural Taskforce meeting will take place in late October in Port Moresby to coincide with the PNG junior national titles.

The Taskforce will look at all facets of the game including the implementation of development programs, football programs to assist with social issues, an elite player pathway with an expanded Academy program and the possibility of a PNG representative team playing on a weekly basis in an Australian football competition.  Recommendations will be made by the Taskforce with a view to partnership programs in the coming years.

"We know PNG is a sports-loving nation and this taskforce is an important step in the development of a game much-loved in Australia but less-developed in PNG," Mr Marles said.

"Importantly, it follows last month's signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Australian Government and the AFL which recognises the strength of collaboration in developing the game's export potential."

One of Papua New Guinea’s most famous exports, Mal Michael said he is looking forward to playing an important role for football in his homeland.

“Back in 2002 I said there will be more players from PNG that are able to play at the highest level and with the support of the Taskforce I don’t think this is too far away from being a reality. I know the positive impact Australian football can have on both individuals and communities and I look forward to offering same opportunities that I had,” he said.

AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods said the Taskforce will engage with footballers throughout Papua New Guinea.

“There is fantastic potential in PNG with more than 27,000 participants currently playing the game. By providing a network of programs we know this number will rise and not only will there will far reaching benefits for communities, there will be opportunities for elite players to pursue their football,” Mr Woods said.

The PNG AFL Taskforce announcement follows the Papua New Guinea national team’s strong performance last month in the International Cup, where they were runner-up to Ireland.

There are currently nine Papua New Guineas players who are on AFL International Scholarships:

  • Donald Barry – Brisbane Lions
  • Brendan Beno – Brisbane Lions
  • Ezra Kautu – Brisbane Lions
  • Peter Labi – Carlton
  • Max Lavai – Essendon
  • David Meli – Essendon
  • Theo Gavuri – GWS Giants
  • Nathan Malbak – Richmond
  • Gideon Simon – Richmond

One of PNG’s most promising elite players, Brendan Beno, played with the Brisbane Lions reserves for the first time last month. Beno, 17, hails from Bougainville and is an AFL International Scholarship holder. He is based in Port Moresby attending the AFL PNG Academy.

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