Red and white delight – AFL International Cup 2017 Fiji v Canada (7th place playoff)

10:45AM Friday August 18th

Royal Park, Melbourne

Jarrod Landells

And then there were two. Well, technically there were still eight teams fighting for final positions in the Men’s Division 1 of the International Cup; but only two could claim the mantle of seventh place.

The seventh place playoff offered two very competent and unlucky footy sides the chance to notch up a second win at the 6th edition of the AFL International Cup. Coming off a draining four games in less than two weeks (more like Barcelona grinding through a Champions League campaign than AFL teams notorious for decrying 6 day breaks), the pungent smell of menthol and the mummy-like metres of strapping tape put the astounding efforts of these and the other 24 teams in to sharp focus.

Blustery conditions portended a game that would be big on “chaos balls” and boundary throw ins. If the lofty Cannucks had relied upon the sporting truism “quick men get tired, tall men don’t get any smaller” after a grueling tournament, mitigating meteorological forces would prove a fly in their ointment and/or liniment.

The game started and both sides split the contests fairly evenly, Fiji the fortunate scorer of the first behind a few minutes in. The wind impacted noticeably on Canadian disposal as several of their midfielders coughed the ball up in dangerous positions by kicking straight to lone Fijian backs.

Canada got their act together when a nice couple of passes along the wing ended up in the arms of Morgan Whyte around the forward fifty. The next passage of play ended when Christian Harbour was illegally pushed out of a marking contest close to home; he took his free and kicked the Northwind into the lead at the 10 minute mark.

Sloppy defending by the Tribe left the Northwind with the easiest of opportunities after a free kick was given to the Canadians and none of the Fijians stood the mark. Opportunity converted, Canada registered their second goal with Fiji yet to add to their opening behind.


Quarter time scores: Fiji 0.1.1 trailed Canada 2.1.13


In the second quarter there was no relief from the wind’s mischief; the ball crossed the line more times than Pauline Hanson at a Harmony Day event. Nemani Qio Nawaqatabu had the first realistic chance to kick a goal for the Tribe when he was tackled high and tried to play on to advantage within 40 metres of goal; the umpire unfortunately pulled him back to take his kick, which flew to the middle of the goalsquare and was rushed over the line.

Just as Fiji started to take the game up to the Northwind, the ball was lost in the centre and burst into the Canadian forward line where Harbour gathered and kicked a checkside goal. An overzealous tackle from Fiji’s Leone Maiqereqere spoiled their momentum further and the ball hurtled once again into the Canadian forward fifty.

A couple of Fijian “don’t argues” that would have made Dusty Martin proud were a delight to watch, however many of them failed to stick and ultimately had little impact on Canada’s progress. More effective was a kick from Semesa Salavou straight through the middle of the goals, the first major from five scoring shots.

The comeback would be blunted a minute later as Whyte marked at true half forward flank and roosted a drop punt 50 metres that just grazed the post on the way through.

Both sides played out the half in style with fast flowing footy on display for a solid but scoreless 4 minutes.


Half time scores: Fiji 1.4.10 trailed Canada 3.2.20


The wind was still playing havoc and worryingly for Fiji, it slightly favoured Canada in the third.

A beautifully executed tackle from Canadian Clay Lund started a chain of deserved possession to the Northwind around the ground. Against the run of play Jerry Vunitabua claimed a mark in defensive fifty and kicked out nicely to stall the Canadian press. His teammates failed to mimic his efforts and struggled to pass halfway with copious kicks turned over directly to opposition players or put out on the full.

Despite the possession advantage, Canada’s inside 50s only returned a few behinds. The momentum then shifted to Fiji when they won key contests and consistently hit teammates with low passes. Alipate Kiti harnessed the good work to kick the first and only goal of the quarter on the run from 40 metres.

Fiji looked like they had another goal in them but time was not on their side.


Three quarter time scores: Fiji 2.6.18 trailed Canada 3.6.24


Canada and Fiji returned with one quarter left to play before they would fly home to ponder what might have been; for some it would be the final chance to represent their country in the sporting arena. A simple equation remained for both sides; make up a solitary goal deficit or hold onto the narrow lead at any cost.

Fiji looked to have taken it upon themselves to write the game’s fairy-tale ending. The fourth quarter had barely started as members of the Tribe lined up to influence every possible contest. Often ephemeral at the best of times, Fijian one-percenters popped up like mushrooms all over the ground, matched by the mood of the playing group.

The growing belief was palpable when Fiji kicked deep into their forward line and scored a behind that brought the margin to under a goal. The Northwind looked more fatigued than their counterparts and spent most of the quarter attempting to drive the ball out of their defensive fifty with mixed results.

Another couple of behinds to Fiji came as much more than a couple of minutes of game time elapsed. Belief had turned to hope as the margin resolutely stood at 3 points, Canada’s way.

For the second consecutive quarter, Fiji ran out of time to catch the Canadians and for the 3rd consecutive game, Fiji ultimately kicked themselves out of contention with poor accuracy.


Final Scores: Fiji 2.9.21 defeated by Canada 3.6.24


Congratulations to Canada for winning through to 7th place in perhaps the most hard fought and tightly contested Division 1 game played in the International Cup. They played a strong game style that would have pushed for a top 5 finish at other iterations of the Cup. Commiserations to Fiji, who if not for some below par kicking at goal could have done even better at their 3rd cup.

Silver linings abound for all teams at such an inclusive and impassioned competition, most of them intangible for the teams who are unable to play for the coveted winners’ trophies. Fiji however had one tangible outcome to be proud of: they improved their world ranking from 10th to 8th overall. Surely with another three years of preparation, they have the ability to climb even further.



Fiji: 0.1 1.4 2.6 2.9 (21)

Canada: 2.1 3.2 3.6 3.6 (24)


Fiji: Pauli, Maiqereqere, Macanawai, Vunitabua, Kiti

Canada: Berk, Whyte, Harbour, Klein, Lund


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.

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