Australian Rules football will be kicking goals in Papua New Guinea tomorrow when the capital Port Moresby plays host to an inaugural 'Day of AFL'.
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles and Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish plan to pull on the boots and compete in an AFL Veterans' Game.
Mr Marles and Mr Kemish are expected to be joined on the field by a number of ex-footballers and prominent PNG figures, including the PNG Foreign Minister, Hon Ano Pala MP, and the Secretary of the Department of Personnel Management, Mr John Kali.
"It will be great fun to be out on the field myself but what is important here and what I'm excited about are the opportunities for gifted players to represent PNG professionally at home and abroad," said Mr Marles.
In addition to the Veteran’s Game, the 'Day of AFL' also includes an AFLPNG Girls Match, Super Clinic for 5 to 12 year olds and a game between the Emerging Mosquitoes and AFLPNG Academy.
Mr Marles and Mr Pala co-chair the PNG AFL Taskforce which was established in September last year to work to expand Australian Rules football in Papua New Guinea.
The Taskforce has set a range of goals including code development, community assistance programming, 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.
About 27,000 young Papua New Guineans currently play in school-based AFL clinics and competitions. Nine PNG boys are on AFL scholarships signed to clubs including Carlton, Essendon and the Brisbane Lions.
"It is also a fantastic opportunity for Australia to share a much loved game with our closest neighbour and friend. As another sports loving nation, it is wonderful but not surprising to see the game being embraced in PNG," said Mr Marles.
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