AFL International Cup 2017 – Fiji v France

2:45 PM Sunday August 6th

Royal Park, Melbourne

Jarrod Landells

 

On a typical day in Melbourne, living up to the lyrics of Crowed House’s Four Seasons in One Day, Fiji, France and huddled supporters were the beneficiaries of the another classic song line: “Out came the sun and dried up all the rain”. After the ground’s prior matches had become soggy, sodden affairs, a confident Fiji side strode onto the rapidly drying field at Royal Park’s McAlister Oval, joining the French in the warm-up.

 

 

Before the game got underway, a huddled Fijian team broke into delightful, melodious song; the sounds of which could easily be heard from the other side of the oval, much to the delight of the small crowd of Fijian supporters and players from the Fiji Vonu women’s side behind the goals. It foreshadowed the Fijian performance, which was very much on song.

 

 

The French were also in good spirits. Their vocal output was of the more rudimentary “team chatter” variety, but it was encouraging all the same from a side competing in their third International Cup & on the up.

 

 

Anthems were observed, the Fijian lads performed the Cibi (much like the New Zealand Haka) in front of the stoic French and an electronic siren blared to start the game.

 

 

From the outset, strong contested footy was on show. Initial impasse gave way to a goal from a stoppage inside the Fijian forward fifty to open their account for 2017. Still very much early in the first, the difference in game sense and positioning became noticeable – Fijian midfielders markedly better and consistently in more space with ball in hand. Within five minutes, Fiji had their second goal on the board.

 

 

If the French were worried, they didn’t show it. As the breeze slightly favoured Fiji in the first quarter (possibly worth a couple of goals), les coqs had no real reason yet to let their combs droop.

 

 

A fired up number five for Fiji had his sights set on bursting off the wing to cause more headaches for the French, but to his opponent’s (#10) credit, he was kept honest around centre contests more often than not.

 

 

After the seven minute mark, France settled and their talls became more involved in the play. Unfortunately, around the same time, France suffered an injury to one of their players and he would take no further part in proceedings.

 

 

The game kicked into second gear around the 12 minute mark, with a good smother on the mark by the Fijian number 12, followed up by a lovely kick that found his teammate (#4) on the half forward flank. Pressure was building on France; to their credit they responded with repeated vigourous play at the coalface and these efforts were rewarded with a free kick 40 metres out, directly in front. However, the kick would drift wide for a behind.

 

 

Fiji’s number 26 had been leading strongly in the forward half and one such lead was successful at half forward. He took clean possession, ran around an opponent and snapped at goal. It too passed wide of the big sticks, adding a single point to the Fijian lead just before the siren.

 

 

Quarter time scores: Fiji 2.3.15 led France 0.2.2

 

 

France played possession footy to start the second quarter, giving them their first goal after some silly play by Fiji resulted in a free to France at the ball up. After a behind to Fiji, France again lifted their intensity, with number 26 brilliantly running down an opponent just on the defensive fifty arc for a well deserved free kick.

 

 

France would push forward on multiple occasions, looking dangerous particularly through half forward, only for a big chance to go missing when Fiji’s defenders took possession on the last line and set off on a breathtaking chain of run and carry through the middle of the ground to their own forward line. It would result in their third goal at the 12 minute mark of what had been a slow scoring quarter thus far. Tails up, number 4 for Fiji kicked the second goal in as many minutes; a third would come shortly thereafter with number 22 firing off a quick kick from 35 metres to push the lead out to 28 points.

 

 

In the shadows of half time, French endeavour was met by fierce tackling from the Fijians. The siren must have brought some relief for a few of the battered French players.

 

 

Half time scores: Fiji 5.7.37 led France 1.2.8

 

 

In a worrying sign for the Fijian coaching staff, France again opened the quarter with a free kick in the middle before the start of play due to ill discipline. However, France would fail to capitalise this time; Fiji reasserting the dominant play that characterised the end of the first half to lead by 6 goals.

 

 

Against the run of play, France took possession from the top of the centre square, with number 8 running with purpose through traffic into the forward 50 to kick a much needed goal. The lift in his teammates was clear from the boundary line; their internal fires were stoked & eyes flashed brightly.

 

 

Talismanic Fiji on-baller, number 4, quelled the French fires somewhat with a six-pointer of his own, his second in as many quarters.

 

 

As the quarter drew to a close, Fiji’s midfielders turned on a fantastic performance & if it were not for poor conversion from their forwards, would have shot out to a larger lead.

 

 

Three quarter time scores: Fiji 8.14.62 led France 2.3.15

 

 

The final quarter started in Fiji’s forward fifty and seemed trapped there for several minutes without score, until their relentless pressure led to a nice goal for number 26 at the 8 minute mark. With les coqs fading fast, Fiji began to turn the screws, their lead extending to 62 points by the middle of the quarter.

 

 

Despite a valiant four or five minute foray into their forward half, the French failed to trouble the scorers in the last.

 

 

Living up to their team moniker, one French defender was particularly vocal and fowl-like when standing the mark, a bizarre display that raised laughs from the crowd and more importantly caused Fijian forwards to spray set shots wide on two occasions just before the final siren sounded.

 

 

Final scores: Fiji 10.20.80 defeated France 2.3.15

 

 

Fiji ran out 65 point winners in a game that serves as an entrée to their main challenge in facing NZ. They came together post game, tonsils again firing up, this time singing Eda sa qaqa “We have overcome” – and that they have, a dramatically improved team compared to their 2014 outfit who will be looking to go far in 2017.

 

 

France played well at times, but couldn’t keep up with the Fijians for speed or strength. Their task gets no easier with their next opponents the perennially tough Ireland.

 

 

 

Scores:

1Q           2Q            3Q               4Q

Fiji           2.3.15     5.7.37      8.14.62        10.20.80

France    0.2.2       1.2.8        2.3.15           2.3.15

About

A classic jack of all trades & master of a couple, Jarrod started his footy career as a gangly ruck after a growth spurt catapulted him to the lofty heights of 177cm as a 12-year-old. Forward pocket off the bench was where he ended up as he topped out at 178cm eight years later. The trajectory of a career in health fortunately didn't peak during the pre-teen years & a keen interest in footy has turned from playing to coaching, volunteering and writing.

Comments

  1. Singers Rocket says:

    For Fiji, ever Fiji, let our voices ring with pride,

    For Fiji, ever Fiji, her name hail far and wide,

    A land of freedom, hope and glory to endure whate’er befall

    May God bless Fiji, forevermore!

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