AFL players from across the globe filled Government House in Melbourne on Saturday morning, the unique noise and colours on show providing an electric atmosphere at the launch of the International Cup.
Almost 900 competitors toured the office and official residence of Victorian Governor and former AFL commissioner Linda Dessau AM for the official launch of the two-week carnival.
“The boys were getting a bit nervous as we saw the other teams arriving, so we started to sing to show some spirit and make sure everyone knew the Lions were united,” said South Africa Lions star Steven Matshane – who has competed in all five AFL International Cup competitions – after the team broke into song at the gates of Government House.
“It’s our culture. We start with song and we finish with song.”
The French also wasted no time getting into the carnival spirit as they marked the end of official proceedings in the ballroom by creating a crowd-surfing train for players of all nationalities to enjoy.
This is the sixth AFL International Cup, with 18 men’s and eight women’s teams starting a gruelling two weeks of footy early Sunday morning.
The competitors, who fund their trips here, ensure they do their best to make it a cultural showpiece. From the Pakistan Shaheens women’s team – who had barely heard of Australian Football prior to 2017 – to reigning men’s champions, the Papua New Guineau Mosquitoes – who have four players entrenched in Victorian amateur footy –the party has started.
Indeed, Jeconiah ‘JJ’ Peni, who plays for Montrose in the Eastern Football League, is looking forward to showing his teammates what Australian Football culture is all about, especially when players venture to Melbourne’s suburbs and country Victoria for the community round component of the tournament.
“Montrose has been there for me throughout (my time in Melbourne) and that is what football is all about,” he said. “I am really looking forward to having my teammates at Montrose for our fixture with USA.”
Myra Ahmad, the Pakistan Shaheens captain, is less familiar with Victorian culture, having only arrived in Australia for the first time on Friday. When she left Islamabad it was 44 degrees, a contrast to the cold and blustery winter morning she encountered on the lawns of Government House.
Despite the chill, no captain gave ground as they proudly unveiled their nation’s jumpers and posed for photographs, with wide smiles more accustomed to a family gathering than a meeting of ‘rival’ sporting team skippers.
Come Sunday morning, from 8.45am at Royal Park in Parkville, those representing more than 130,000 people who play Australian Football outside Australia, will be flying in hard for every contest.
But on Saturday, they were brothers and sisters in arms, as teams enjoyed the welcome addresses and hospitality at Government House before walking across the Yarra for a parade of nations ahead of the Essendon-Carlton at the MCG.
All Round 1 – New Zealand vs Nauru (August 6th), Round 4 – New Zealand vs Ireland (August 15th) and Finals (August 18th or 19th) matches will be streamed via the AFL International Cup YouTube Channel.
AFL New Zealand will be providing live Twitter updates of every game on the AFL New Zealand Twitter page (@aflnz) and quarter by quarter updates, photos and up to date news will be published on Facebook and Instagram along with our website aflnz.co.nz
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