Folau's Fijian adventure

GWS GIANT Israel Folau and West Coast Eagle Nic Naitanui will attend the Youth AFL Oceania Cup in Fiji this week.

AFL players Israel Folau and Nic Naitanui will attend the Youth AFL Oceania Cup in Fiji this week.

The players will be ambassadors during the tournament mentoring young players from their respective nations.

Eight South Pacific nations will play in the carnival: Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

This is the third Youth AFL Oceania Cup. Previous winners are Tonga (2009) and PNG (2010).

AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods said the number of Pacific-born players in AFL lists will hopefully increase over the next five years.

“The Oceania Cup is a chance for young players throughout the Pacific region to play AFL at a higher level. The week in Fiji also offers players the opportunity to test at an International Combine and for a place in the South Pacific Under-16 team at that will play in Australia next year,” he said.

The week-long carnival starts tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13 and will also involve the AFL’s Indigenous Youth team, the Flying Boomerangs. The Flying Boomerangs program won a prestigious international Beyond Sport Award last week.

The squad of 24 15-year-olds is coached by AFL Community Engagement and Talent Manager Chris Johnson while Andrew McLeod, Xavier Clarke and Des Headland are assistant coaches. The Boomerangs will complete against Oceania and South Pacific representative teams. The squad will also engage with the Pacific players in cultural exchanges.

The squad was selected following the Under-15 National AFL KickStart Championships conducted in Brisbane in September.

The best 50 players from the Oceania Cup will be invited to attend an International Combine on Friday December 16. A South Pacific squad will also be selected to participate in the 2012 NAB AFL Under-16 Championships in Sydney.

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