December 1st 1999
Published: August 24th 2006
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Nauru is not the most exciting place in the world to visit and is difficult to get to. I have been there twice and that's probably enough.

It remains the only country in the world that I have managed to run around! It only took a few hours but the heat was incredible.

The purpose of the trip was to get a first-hand look at Australian football in Nauru and meet the key people involved. Below is a copy of my report:


This report is based on my trip to Nauru (or Naoero) from 1 - 7 December 1999.

The governing body is the Nauru Amateur Football Association (NAFA) and I am pleased to report that Nauru became the IAFC’s 15th member during my visit.

Australian football has been played here since the 1930’s and many Nauruans have played in Australia. Yet due to isolation and communication problems little is known about footy in Nauru.

It is hoped that this report goes some way to correcting the above.

Footy in Nauru is deserving of AFL support, and at the very least the standard international package of 6 footys and $500 per club should be implemented.

As little is known about the world’s smallest independent republic, I have included some information on Nauru’s history and issues which confront it such as phosphate mining and rehabilitation.

Yours in Footy,
Brian Clarke

NAFA History

There is virtually no recorded history of Australian football in Nauru. Common consensus, however, indicates that it was first played in the 1930’s and that it was introduced by Nauruans who had been to school in Victoria. Amongst them was Hammer DeRoburt, known as the father of the nation. His obituary (Nauru Bulletin, No.28/92) states:

“Victoria, and particularly Geelong, became a favourite place for secondary education of Nauruan students who, before World War II, could not proceed beyond primary school on Nauru. Hammer DeRoburt and some of his fellow students returned from schooling in Geelong, introduced Aussie Rules football and made it into the popular sport it is today.”

In 1994 Nauru came to the rescue of Fitzroy. As the Herald Sun reported at the time: “If the cap fits, wear it. And to the delight of every supporter and particularly coach Bernie Quinlan and John Birt, ‘Kinza the Lion King’ donned the maroon and blue cap of the club he helped save, Fitzroy. Kinza Clodumar is the Nauruan-born chairman of the Nauru insurance Corporation, which this week entered a seven-year multi-million dollar arrangement to rid Fitzroy of debt.”

Nauru participated in the 1995 Arafura Games in Darwin, winning the bronze medal. They were coached by former Geelong player Mark Yeates. Unfortunately Nauru did not send a team in 1997 due to a lack of finance, and the 1999 Arafura Games clashed with the South Pacific Games in Guam.

In 1997 there was no competition organized at either junior or senior level, however the Nauru Secondary School sent an under fourteen team to compete in the Queensland Junior State Championships as an invitational member, winning all four games. During that year it was organized with the Queensland Australian Football Foundation, through Murray Bird and Wes Illig, to send one of Nauru's best under eighteen players, Paner Baguga, to Brisbane to play for Morningside in the QSFL.

The Nauru Secondary School was invited to take part in the Queensland State Championships in 1998 as a fully fledged competitor, but unfortunately were not able to attend for various reasons.

1995 Arafura Games

The Nauru Frigate Birds won the bronze medal at the 1995 Arafura Games in Darwin. Results:

New Zealand 1.2 4.4 7.5 8.6 54
Nauru 1.0 1.0 1.0 3.1 19
Goals - NZ: J Evans 3; D Anderson 2; Doug Stuart, Cameron Ashe, David Mapstone.
Goals - Nauru: Tannag 2; Detabeng.
Best - NZ: Doug Stuart, Cameron Ashe, Anthony Hogan, Paul Gunning, David Mapstone.
Best - Nauru: A Ratuyagoa, S Tannag, F Bill.

Japan/Singapore 2.0 4.0 5.1 6.5 41
Nauru 1.0 2.3 3.6 4.11 35
Goals - J/S: Rob Taylor 3; Colin Stimpson; Simon Nigrelli; Tomonori Miura.
Goals - Nauru: Rick Hiram 2; Abner Jeremiah, Frasel Bill.
Best - J/S: Luke Wundke, Billy Barker, Rob Taylor.
Best - Nauru: Rick Hiram, Stanley Seymour, Frasel Bill.

Papua New Guinea 1.2 1.8 3.8 7.10 52
Nauru 2.4 3.4 4.5 4.6 30
Goals - PNG: George Kava 3; Thomas Gori 2; Stanley Tavul, Francis Namongo.
Goals - Nauru: Frasel Bill 2; Sasha Garoa, Valdon Dowiyogo.
Best - PNG: Patrick Polosi, Mathias Meli, Willie Lipou, Justin Kaumu, Tony Magea.
Best - Nauru: Stanley Seymour, Larry Notte, Frasel Bill.

Nauru 3.5 6.7 7.8 9.11 65
Hong Kong 1.1 2.2 3.5 4.6 30
Goals - Nauru: Frasel Bill 2; Ifereimi Salbesa 2; Alfred Spanner, Javin Agir, Larry Notte, A Detabene, Valdon Dowiyogo.
Goals - HK: Ric Reddell, Bruce Brown, Craig Porter, Michael Graham.
Best - Nauru: S Seymour, F Bill, L Notte, B Hobbs.
Best - HK: N/A.

Nauru 3.1 7.2 10.3 13.6 84
Japan/Singapore 2.1 3.3 7.3 9.5 59
Goals - Nauru: R Huram 4; A Detabone, F Bill 2; L Cook, L Notte, V Dowiyogo, A Ratuygone, J Agir.
Goals - J/S: R Taylor 5; T Miura 2; N Lagonik, H Shline.
Best - Nauru: E Detrageauwa, A Spanner, F Bill, B Grundler,.
Best - J/S: R Taylor, N Laggonik, A Wigg, T Tsuji, J Rudkin, P Wills.


Valdon Dowiyogo, 31, has recently stepped down as President of the Nauru Amateur Football Association (NAFA). He is employed as the Director of Posts and is the Vice President of the Nauru Golf Club. He is obviously a very smart man as he supports the Hawthorn Football Club.

Valdon plays for the Ubenide Power in the local competition and also represented Nauru as a full forward at the 1995 Arafura Games in Darwin.

He was educated in Monivae College in Hamilton, Victoria and played footy there. Before that he spent 4 years in Tullamarine, playing Under 14’s and Under 16’s with the Tullamarine Football Club. In 1984 he was vice-captain of the Under 16’s and won the club’s best and fairest. He returned to Nauru in 1987 and has been involved in the local league since 1988.

Jansci Kun, 30, is the Secretary of NAFA and is employed by Air Nauru. 1999 is his first year of being involved in local footy. He went to school in Sydney and played rugby.

John Tannang, 37, is the Treasurer of NAFA and works for the Q Store, a local sports store. As a child it was his dream to go to Assumption College, but his parents sent him to New Zealand instead. He played for three years in the first XV (rugby).

Wes Illig, 30, hails from Stawell in Victoria and is a schoolteacher with the Nauru Secondary School. He has been in Nauru 9 years and is returning to Australia next year.

Wes played for 3 years with Panzer and then spent 2 years as a player/coach with Aces. He hasn’t played since and hasn’t been to a game this year as the temptation to play is too great. His knees would never forgive him.

His only involvement this year has been with the Nauru Mini Football Federation, an Under 14 competition organised by Sean Oppenheimer. Wes umpired some games, including the grand final.

There is a gap between Under 14’s and Seniors so Wes was taking 36 kids (including girls) to the oval every Friday afternoon for a game of footy (two 30 minute halves).

“Having footy on the TV this year has improved the standard tenfold. You can see the kids trying to do the right thing.”

Wes has also taken two junior teams to Australia. The first trip was in 1996. Beforehand Wes and another teacher wrote to all the AFL clubs. There was no response from the Melbourne clubs but the Brisbane Lions were very supportive. They gave Wes Murray Bird as a contact as he was the Queensland Junior Development Officer at the time. So the Nauru Under 14 team went to Brisbane and played 5 games against various schools, winning every game.

Based on the success of this trip Nauru was invited to the 1997 Under 14 Queensland State Championships as an invitational side. They played 4 games and again won them all. The players were very popular and in Nauruan tradition gave away their jumpers to their last opponents.

Nauru were asked back in 1998 but the AFL advised that in order to attend they had to become an affiliate of the Queensland Junior Football Association. This was never followed through due to a lack of finances.

I asked Wes about Paner Baguga, who played for Panzer in the grand final. Paner played for Morningside in the QSFL in 1998. Whilst representing Nauru on the 1997 trip, Paner played 3 games for one of the local Under 18 teams, kicking a few goals in his first came. He also had a training run with the Gold Coast Stingrays.

After discussions between Murray Bird and Wes Illig it was agreed that Paner would play a season in Brisbane. Paner obtained a sportsman’s visa and Morningside organised his accommodation. He was employed as a groundsman by the QSFL and his wages were supposed to paid from three sources: an AFL fund, the Queensland Junior Football Association and the government of Nauru. Unfortunately the money from the government never came through.


Australian football is the No. 1 sport in Nauru, followed by weightlifting, softball and basketball. Other sports played are cricket (very minor) and golf. Thankfully, no rugby is played in Nauru.

Unfortunately the Nauruan government provides little assistance to footy. This is in marked contrast to weightlifting, which receives huge amounts of money. In fact more money is spent on weightlifting in Nauru than education.

Why all this money on weightlifting? The answer is quite simple. The Sports Director of the Nauru Olympic Committee is Paul Coffa. Paul coached Australian gold medallist Dean Lukin, and Paul’s brother, Sam, is the President of the Australian Weightlifting Association.

Local hero Marcus Stephen (who played footy for Aces) has won gold at the Commonwealth Games and recently won a silver medal at the World Weightlifting Championships in Athens. The 2001 World Weightlifting Championships have been awarded to Nauru, although rumours abound that they will be shifted to Fiji.

There is no doubt that the great increase in the prominence of weightlifting has hurt Nauruan football.

An observation. Footy is Nauru’s national sport and is of a great benefit to the community. It gives many children and young adults something to do and involves thousands of people, whether players or supporters.

I would recommend that NAFA be proactive and actively seek the support of the Nauruan government. The Prime Minister of Samoa is the Patron of the Samoan Australian Rules Football Association (SARFA) and a similar approach should be made to the Nauru President, The Hon. Rene Harris. His Excellency is a former President of NAFA, is a huge Geelong fan and supports Menaida. Having him as a Patron, along with a letter of support, would be invaluable.


The controlling body is the Nauru Amateur Football Association (NAFA).


Name Colours District

Ubenide Power White & Black Baiti, Uaboe, Nibok, Denigomodu
Blues Blue & White Anibare, Ijuw, Anabar, Anetan, Ewa
Panzer Red, White & Black Meneng
Yaren Magpies Vlack & White Yaren
Supercats Blue & White Nauru
Esso Yellow & Black Buada, Aiwo
Menaida Black & Yellow Aiwo, Buada
Ubenited Black & White
Boe Lions Maroon, Gold, Blue Boe

The season is from May to December. There are 10 senior teams but they only have 2 games per week, as they only have one oval. A team might not play for 2-3 weeks and therefore players start to lose interest. They are finding that players are only turning up to train the week before they are scheduled to play. Obviously NAFA would love to have another oval.

There are no expats playing, with only 6 Australians having played in the last decade. In 1996 two players from the Geelong Under-19s played 3 games each for the Supercats. They would fly in Friday and fly back Sunday. Wes told me that one of them was 6’5 and played full forward, while the other was 5’10, very solidly built and played in the middle. Apparently they did OK.

Other nationalities to have played in the league include people from Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji.


Currently NAFA does not operate a junior competition. They used to have an Under 16 competition but not any more.

The only junior competition is the Nauru Mini Football Federation (NMFF). The age group is Under 14 and there are 6 teams: Aces, Panzer, Tigers, Lions, Blues and Ubenited.

The NMFF is not aligned with NAFA. It was begun by Sean Oppenheimer, former Blues player and General Manager of Capelle & Partner. Capelle & Partner are broadrange wholesalers and are THE business on the island. As such they inevitably attract local jealously and criticism.

Sean tried to introduce a player transfer system into NAFA but this was rejected. He also had sponsors willing to kick in $3000 for NAFA but this was also turned down.

Sean told me that two years ago he wanted to do something for the kids. He approached NAFA for their support and they agreed. So the kids started to train but nothing happened.

So in 1999 Sean and others started their own competition. Capelle provided balls, umpires, uniforms, trophies etc. They met every week to plan the competition. Wes, who umpired a few games including the grand final, told me that very strict behavioural rules were enforced as the senior league was notorious for getting out of hand.

“As soon as the comp got up and running NAFA wanted to be involved but we said no. We had the support of the whole community. I’ve never seen so many mothers turning up to games,” Sean said.

Indeed, the junior competition has had a positive effect on the community. Wes told me that the truancy rate in Nauru is very high, and that kids were going to school so they could have a kick with their mates.

The initial plan was to get enough players to form two teams, with each player contributing a can of tinned food, with the winner taking all. Instead of 36 players, however, over 400 wanted to play! Each of the six teams had over 70 registered players.

The competition ran from June to November and was a great success. The venue was the “field” behind Capelles. Two matches were held every Saturday, at 8.30am and 10.30am. So keen were the kids to play they were turning up at 6.30am!

In the grand final, a good crowd of well over 500 people saw the Blues defeat Ubenited by 1 point. Sean showed me some video footage of the game and both the standard of play and the organisation of the day looked very good.

The age range of the kids involved was from 8 to 13. Some of the kids were tiny, while others have the body of a man at 13. So Sean is keen to run both an Under 10 and Under 14 competition next year.

I can understand that NAFA are upset that the junior competition was not run under their banner. But considering the fact that Nauru is a small island with a small population it is crazy that a spirit of animosity exists between NMFF and NAFA. I would suggest that Valdon, Jansci, John, Gary and Sean sit around a table together and sort it out over a few beers.

Another issue NAFA needs to address is a lack of an Under 16 competition. Whilst there may be a temptation to put it in the too hard basket, having such a competition is crucial.
In Nauru you play senior football when you are big enough to handle yourself, so there is nothing for the kids aged from 14-17.


The NAFA committee consists of a President, Secretary, Treasurer and a representative from each team. Under the constitution the executive are elected for 3 years, which in my opinion is way too long. To keep people motivated and to attract new people with fresh ideas, these positions should be for a maximum of one year only.

As Jansci has admitted, administration is their biggest problem. For example, I was unable to obtain a history of footy in Nauru as record keeping is virtually non-existent. However, perhaps the most damning example of the lack of administration is that football was not even played in 1997.

Further, I was told that planning for the season tends to be left until a few weeks before its commencement. As their season finishes in December I would recommend that they hold their annual AGM in January. That way people can be appointed and have sufficient time to discharge their responsibilities. The creation of a 1 year and 3 year plan is also crucial.

Committee meetings used to be once a month but increased to once a week due to the sheer volume of tribunal matters. Violence is a serious problem and offenders must be made examples of if the situation is to improve. For example, as soon as the siren sounded at the grand final, one of the players sprinted to a section of the crowd. I thought he was going to give somebody a celebratory hug, but the spectator copped a vicious right fist to the head instead. I have no doubt whatsoever that nothing will happen to the offending player. This hardly sets a good example to the many kids who were at the game.


NAFA admits that they lack umpires. The only qualified field umpire that doesn’t play is Gary Turner.

Unfortunately umpiring seems to have an image problem in Nauru. A few weeks ago a field umpire paid a free kick that led to a one point victory. As soon as the siren had sounded he was chased across the oval by two blokes in a 4 wheel drive. They eventually caught up with him and punches were thrown. This sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable and NAFA must come down hard on any perpetrators of violence.

Umpires are unpaid. Each weak a team is rostered to provide all 6 umpires for a match - 2 field, 2 boundary and 2 goal. They know how to play the game but not necessarily how to umpire. The fact that they are players can create problems, with some teams alleging bias.

The umpires do not have uniforms, instead they are told to wear white.

Jansci has spoken to Mike Aroi from Air Nauru concerning sponsoring an Umpiring Association. Gary Turner is extremely interested in running such an association and his qualifications would be invaluable.

Gary recently contacted the AFL Umpiring Department regarding obtaining some equipment, in particular a decent whistle. He was told to get one from Rebel Sport! A bit hard when you’re in Nauru. Thankfully Rohan Sawyers from the AFL has more of a clue and he has sent Gary some manuals and CD-Roms on umpiring.


NAFA’s major sponsor is the Q Store, which this year supplied footys, jersey numbers and trophies. Among these trophies was the league’s best and fairest award, which was sponsored by Air Nauru. Their prize of a return airfare to Australia is a fantastic one and a great incentive to the players. Apparently Air Nauru is interested in naming rights next year.

Q Store’s support of NAFA this year has been fantastic and John Tannang in particular deserves a big rap for all the work he has done.


Media in Nauru consists of Nauru Television (NTV), Radio Nauru (AM) and the Nauru Bulletin, all of which fall under the auspices of the Director of Media. An FM station will be in operation by Christmas. The Pacific Regional News is also produced daily.

The Nauru Bulletin is produced fortnightly and NTV is a mixture of the ABC, Australia Television, CNN, Fox and MTV. The only local show is the Sunset News, which is broadcast every Friday. The former channel Sports Pacific Network (SPN), which was run by Paul Coffa, is defunct and it is not known whether it will return.

The AFL grand final is shown live every year. Beginning this year, coverage during the season is excellent, with at least one game per week. On any given weekend it is not uncommon to get the Friday night game, a Saturday game and a Sunday game. All matches are delayed telecast.

The Director of Media is Gary Turner. Gary, 44, first visited Nauru in 1994 at the invitation of the then President Bernard Dowiyogo. He was the MC of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Nauru Phosphate Corporation. He has been back three times since then and is currently on his fourth trip (and second contract). Prior to his current appointment (he has been back 3 months) Gary spent 18 months in Queensland working as a freelance journalist and as a consultant for a few radio stations.

Originally from the Dandenongs, “David Parkin was my schoolteacher and worked part-time for my father. Because Parkin had played for Hawthorn all the kids supported them. I was the only one who barracked for Essendon. Alan Hird happened to be the School Inspector and encouraged my support of the Bombers by bringing me club booklets and magazines to read.”

Gary trained with the Richmond Under 19’s before playing for Waverley in the VAFA. He then played in the Lodden Valley before beginning his umpiring career with the Bendigo Junior Umpires Association. After moving to Melbourne he umpired with the Eastern District Football League (EDFL). At one stage he was umpiring in 3 different leagues: the EDFL, the Knox Junior Football League and the Doncaster & District Junior Football League.

Gary has remained a huge Essendon fan and was the first person to interview Kevin Sheedy when he released his book ‘A Touch of Cunning’. Gary has kept in touch and Essendon look after him when he visits. Matthew Drain, Player Development Manager, has been particularly helpful.


NAFA’s headquarters are situated at Linkbelt Oval. The oval is named after a company that used to be involved in mining on the island. Indeed, powerhouse team Menaida were originally known as Linkbelt (as is one of their players!).

I had been told not to expect much but was amazed by what I saw. There is no grass whatsoever - the playing surface consists completely of phosphate dust over crushed dirt. NAFA’s slogan is “the hard men of football” and I can see why. You would have to be made of stern stuff indeed to even consider playing on such a surface.

When I asked about the inevitable cuts and scrapes that must occur I was nonchalantly told “a bit of sea water will fix it.” Otherwise you run the risk of wounds going septic.

And the ground is not only tough on the players. Jansci got a footy out of his car that looked like it had seen better years. He then told me it was brand new before the previous week’s Preliminary Final.

Despite the lunar appearance of the playing field there are permanent fully sized goal posts and a very good large scoreboard.

The surface has not stopped Doncaster in Victoria sending an Under 16 team in 1996, 1997 and 1998, although they wear elbow and knee pads when they play. Doncaster have won all 3 games but did not visit in 1999.

Centre square and other markings are done with oil.

The Nauru Phosphate Corporation has fixed up the oval. Obviously it would be great if the oval had grass but there is little likelihood of that happening in the near future. Apart from one or two showers it hasn’t rained here for 2 years.


Like any other sport, Australian football must be aware of the cultural differences that exist in the Pacific if it is to succeed. The best example of this is provided by the events of the day before the grand final.

A very well respected man, the Reverend James Aingimea, had died during the week and his funeral was to be held the day of the grand final i.e. Saturday. Jansci received a letter from the Meneng Congregational Church requesting that the match be postponed.

The Aingimea family are from Meneng, the same district as one of the grand final teams, Panzer. So a lot of the players and supporters would want to attend the funeral. Further, the son of the deceased was Head Chief of Nauru for a long time, so out of his respect for his family a lot of people would want to attend. I was told that when there’s a funeral in Nauru, everything stops.

Religion is taken very seriously here and so playing the match on Sunday was not an option. It was eventually decided to shift the game to Monday afternoon. The President was asked to declare a half day holiday to allow the people to attend the game, but this was denied. So the game was set down for 4pm, Monday 6 December.


The footy grand final is a huge event in Nauru. An example is provided by the Meneng district, which is home to the Panzer team. There were black, white and red streamers everywhere, wrapped around houses, palm trees, cars and anything else available. The playing number of each particular player is also proudly displayed outside his house. The Menaida supporters also had a sea of yellow and black banners in their district.

Probably the best example of the fanaticism in Nauru is the names of some of the people themselves. Christian names include Sheedy, Hawthorn, Jacko, Cazaly, Hudson and Jesaleunko. There’s even a Jeff Kennett!

Set down for 4pm, the game finally got underway at 4.45pm. The intensity of the players here was obvious and no quarter was given or expected.

Menaida 2.1 4.3 9.5 11.7 (73)
Panzer 2.0 4.1 4.1 9.4 (58)
Umpires: Gary Turner, John Tannang
Crowd: 3000

Incredibly, this was Menaida’s 12th consecutive Premiership! Panzer were the last team to win it in 1986.

The half time sprint, in a unanimous decision by the judges, was won by Odea Stephen from Ubenited, who picked up a nice trophy and $100. And all this without risk of a hamstring strain, as the other 5 nominated competitors failed to turn up.

Other awards given were the Best & Fairest, won by Paul Hartman from the Supercats, and I was impressed by the fact he collected his award in full playing uniform. The Leading Goalkicker award was won by Quinson Cook from Menaida, his 9 goals in the final giving him 105 for the year. Incredibly 46 of these were kicked in one game!


Despite its small size Nauru has had its fair share of high profile AFL players and coaches. These include Dermott Brereton, Gary Lyon, Gary Ablett, Michael Turner, Paul Couch, Neville Bruns, Bernie Quinlan, Mark Yeates, Jarrad Molloy, Simon Hawking and Chris Johnson.

Brereton came over with Channel 9 in 1993, with footage being shown on The Footy Show.

The Fitzroy players came after the 1994 AFL season. Nauru were preparing for the 1995 Arafura Games and the Fitzroy players conducted coaching clinics with the national team.

At that time the President of NAFA (who is now the President of Nauru) was Chairman of the Nauru Phospate Corporation, and he used his contacts to bring them over.

Michael Turner and Paul Couch from Geelong visited together in either late 94/early 95. Neville Bruns came over to open up a sports store.

Mark Yeates was Nauru’s national coach in Darwin and Chris Johnson from Fitzroy helped out as well.

John Northey was a guest at the 1996 grand final.


Surprisingly the AFL provide no assistance to NAFA. In 1999 Valdon has started to receive a weekly copy of the AFL Record, but that’s it. No jumpers, balls or money, nothing.

I gave Valdon some copies of the ‘AFL Skills Guide’ and ‘The Great Australian Game’ booklet and this was the first time he had seen these.

Valdon told me that Edwin McPhail, who works for the Nauru government at Nauru House in Melbourne, has been very helpful in getting footys and other requested items.


Nauru has had a long relationship with the Geelong Football Club.

“Hammer’s love of Aussie Rules football began in Geelong while he was attending school there. He became an ardent supporter of the Geelong Football Club (Cats) and never failed his team, watching them play whenever he was in Melbourne. The Nauru Presidential limousine was a familiar sight at the MCG when the Cats were playing.” (Nauru Bulletin, No.28/92).

Gary Ablett, Paul Couch and Neville Bruns have all visited and Mark Yeates was Nauru’s national coach in 1995.

Further, the current President of Nauru is a strong Geelong supporter.

Given all of the above, it is recommended that Nauru build upon their strong historical links with Geelong and align themselves with the Cats, in much the same way that Samoa have done with the Bulldogs. By calling themselves the Bulldogs Samoa have received footys, jumpers, shorts and socks from their AFL counterparts, as well as the opportunity to train with them and be their guests at an AFL match. These are powerful incentives for a Pacific footballer.

I would suggest that NAFA get a letter of support from the President of Nauru and approach Geelong for their assistance.


The standard of footy in Nauru is excellent. They are quick, they have very good ball handling skills and they know how to kick a ball. They read the ball very well and are not afraid to tackle.

And Nauruans have been playing in Australia for many years. Godfrey Thoma played for Geelong Grammar and was asked to train with the Geelong Under 19’s. Current Menaida coach Dantis Tsitsi captained Scotch College in Albury. And The Hon. Aloysius Amwano MP, Minister for Sports, Youth and Women’s Affairs “ran rings around” Rene Kink during his playing days with Monivae College. There are many more examples.

I fully agree with what Gary told me. “There’s some great talent here and AFL Queensland should come up and have a look at some of these blokes. They’d survive a lot easier in Brisbane than in Melbourne. For many years Melbourne has been the big port of call for Nauru but now Brisbane is becoming increasingly popular. The weather is similar so it is a lot easier to acclimatise.

AFL Queensland should offer some scholarships for the young kids. They should be given an educational scholarship in return for playing footy. And if not scholarships, jobs such as apprenticeships and traineeships.”


Nauru played PNG twice in the 1970's, but apart from the Arafura Games in 1995 (where they won the bronze) they have been starved of international competition.

I spoke to NAFA about returning to the Arafura Games in 2001 and they were very enthusiastic. Likewise with the 2002 World Cup in Melbourne.

There is no doubt that the opportunity to represent their country would be a great incentive for the players. It could well be the catalyst to attract greater government support.

They have heard a lot about Samoa and are very keen to play them. I think it would be a great match - the battle of the bronze medallists!

Nauru is out as a venue as they play on dirt, so the options are playing in Samoa or Fiji. The reasons for Fiji are:

1. Air Nauru (the acting CEO, Mike Aroi, plays footy and they flew the team to Australia for the 1995 Arafura Games) fly to Fiji, but not to Samoa.
2. Polynesian Airlines fly to Fiji.
3. Fiji will be hosting the next South Pacific Games in 2003. I believe an exhibition match between Nauru and Samoa in Fiji would be a great way to introduce the code there.
4. The Fiji High Commission would hopefully be able to provide some on the ground assistance.

Of course, the other option is they fly to Fiji, and arrange some sort of deal with Polynesian Airlines to get them to Samoa.

As PNG are playing New Zealand in Wellington in January it would be great to see a Nauru v Samoa match in the near future.

Further, the above concept could be equally applied to PNG. I have been told that footy is shown on Australia TV in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, and that a few locals are having a social kick of the footy. Perhaps a PNG v Nauru match there may be an option worth investigating.


Nauru is the only country outside Australia where the No. 1 sport is Australian football. As such footy in Nauru deserves a lot of support.

NAFA has had its fair share of problems in the past but there is an awareness that things need to be improved and they appear to have the right people aboard.

Communication has been a problem but now that we have a list of email contacts this should be a thing of the past. I look forward to working with NAFA in the future.

Thanks to the following people for making my trip possible: Mike Aroi from Air Nauru, Kevin Clodumar from the Menen Hotel, Valdon Dowiyogo, Jansci Kun, John Tannang, Wes Illig and Gary Turner.

The Republic of Nauru

The Republic of Nauru is a small isolated Central Pacific island lying some 41km south of the Equator. Ocean Island some 306km to the east is its nearest neighbour. Nauru is some 4000km from Sydney.

The island is a raised atoll, with a surrounding reef which is exposed at low tide, has a circumference of 19km and an area of just over 8 square miles. From a narrow coastal belt where most of the population reside, coral cliffs cover some 3/5ths of the land area. A plateau rises to some 213 feet above sea level at its highest point. The plateau covers approximately four fifths of the land area, and contains valuable deposits of rock phosphate.

The first Europeans to visit Nauru named it Pleasant Island, so enchanted were they by its lush tropical vegetation and friendly inhabitants. It was a regular stop for whalers and received the occasional beachcomber or trader.

The weather is generally hot and humid tempered by occasional sea breezes, with a variable annual rainfall which averages 200cm (80 inches). Its vegetation on unmined lands includes coconut palms, the forest tomano, figs, almonds, mangoes, wild cherry, pandanus and many smaller species.

The indigenous people of Nauru customarily comprised twelve tribes, symbolised by the twelve-pointed star on their national flag. They are mostly of Polynesian and Micronesian descent. They speak Nauruan, a distinct Pacific language, with English being used for government and commercial purposes.

The island is divided into 14 districts: Yaren, Meneng, Anibare, Ijuw, Anabar, Anetan, Ewa, Baiti, Uaboe, Nibok, Denigomodu, Aiwo, Boe and Buada.

The total population of Nauru numbers about 10,000 people, of which around 6,800 are indigenous Nauruans. The remainder are temporary residents made up of expatriate contract workers.

The Nauruans are Christians, the majority belonging to either the Nauru Congregational Church or the Roman Catholic Church. Recently a new Protestant church was established known as the Nauruan Independent Church and this also has strong support.

Nauru is governed by an elected legislature with a Westminster style Cabinet presided over by a President who is also Head of State. It is a full member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and has been a member of the United Nations since November 1999.

Colonialism and Nauru

Little is known of Nauru's history prior to its discovery by Captain John Fearn in 1798, as he was sailing from New Zealand to China Seas in his British Whaler "Hunter". He did not land but noted it was extremely populous with many houses and named it Pleasant Island.

Nauru existed as an independent island society until it was annexed by Germany in 1888 as part of the Marshall Islands Protectorate. In 1900 a British company discovered phosphate on the island and negotiated with Germany for mining rights. In November 1914 Nauru was seized by Australian troops and remained in British control until 1921.

At the end of the war, when the German colonies were detached, a League of Nations C Class Mandate was granted to Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.

The three countries provided for an Administration and set up the British Phosphate Commissioners (BPC) to run the phosphate industry.

In 1940 Nauru was occupied by the Japanese and 1200 Nauruans were deported to Truk. Only 700 survivors returned.

In 1947 the island was placed under United Nations Trusteeship and Australia resumed administration on behalf of the three partner governments: Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.

Nauru became an independent republic on 31 January 1968.

National Flag and Holidays

The National Flag is royal blue divided by a horizontal central band of gold with a white 12 pointed star in the lower left quadrant. The blue symbolises the Pacific Ocean, the gold band the Equator and the 12 pointed star 12 tribes of the Nauruan people. These are Irutsi, Eano, Eamwit, Emea, Deboe, Iruwa, Eamwitmwit, Ranibok, Emangum, Eamwidara, Iwi, and Eaoru.

In addition to usual religious holidays Nauru observes three national public holidays. Independence Day on 31 January, Constitution Day on 17 May and Angam Day on 26 October. Angam Day commemorates the various occasions when the Nauruan population has reached 1,500 which is considered the minimum required for survival. The word Angam literally means homecoming.


The economy of Nauru is largely based on the mining of phosphate, but the government has been endeavouring to develop alternative industries, including tourism, off-shore finance and fishing, to provide a more secure future when the phosphate deposits are exhausted some time in the next decade. The currency is the Australian dollar.

The Nauru Phosphate Corporation, a statutory corporation of the Republic, took over mining activities in June 1970, following Independence. In addition to mining phosphate, the NPC also performs community services such as the running of Nauru's desalination plant which provides fresh water that previously had to be shipped from Australia.

The island is fully electrified, power being supplied by diesel generators maintained by the Nauru Phosphate Corporation.

The Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust administers the investment of monies derived from the sale of phosphate in the four Funds implemented under Nauru's Constitution, and has extensive investments in Australia and other places overseas. Under the Constitution of Nauru, the Trust is required to pay a percentage of phosphate royalties into a special Rehabilitation Fund set up by the Government to finance the rehabilitation of the lands mined after Independence.

Nauru Air Corporation owns and operates Air Nauru, the national carrier flying Boeing 737 400 aircraft to Australia, Micronesia, Fiji, Guam, the Philippines and Kiribati.

There are over 19km of sealed road, consisting of a ring road and a road to Buada Lagoon some distance inland and the phosphate workings. A small narrow gauge railway serves the phosphate workings.

Nauru has no natural port but has excellent deep water anchorages served by a cantilever system for the loading of phosphate and by lighters for the discharge and loading of other cargo.

A modern telephone service has been installed and cables, radio telephone circuits and an earth satellite station provide good international communications. The international country code (IDD access code) for Nauru is 674.

A wholly owned statutory corporation of the Republic, the Bank of Nauru provides banking services.

Mining and its Effects

Over the past century, Nauru has generated wealth quite out of proportion to its size, some for its own people, but by far the greater part for others. The source of this wealth is high grade phosphate rock, which has been mined since 1907.

However, Nauru is well aware that its phosphate is a finite resource, and seeks to invest the profits wisely to safeguard the future of its people once mining is exhausted.

The phosphate rock on Nauru is among the highest grade in the world, with a typical percentage of 80%!p(MISSING)hosphate of lime. Current rates of extraction are 0.5 to .75 million tonnes per annum. The Nauru Phosphate Corporation currently supplies phosphate to Australia and New Zealand, and small amounts to Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The phosphate on Nauru has been laid down over millions of years in coral beds, which have risen above sea level and subsided a number of times over the centuries and which now lie atop cliffs rising 60 metres above sea level. The phosphate has been laid down in between areas of coral so that when it is removed, tall coral pinnacles remain. The result is an eerie, barren and inhospitable landscape suggesting a creation of science fiction.

Further, over-mining of the island has led to what is described as an 'oven' effect. The removal of vegetation to facilitate mining has left the plateau with a bald top, which has become so hot that the updraught of air disperses the cloud formation and so less rain is recorded. These droughts have retarded much of the normal growth of the jungle and restricted habitats of local birds.

The disappearance of birdlife is exacerbated by the destruction of the forest including the beautiful tomano tree. The tomano is the nesting place of the noddy bird, which is regarded both as a delicacy and a reliable guide to fishing grounds. The national symbol of Nauru, the frigate bird, is also dwindling in numbers, as is the tern.

What will rehabilitation achieve?

The rehabilitation of Nauru's mined-out lands is a priority of the Government as mining draws to a close. Nauruans have a very strong attachment to their homeland, and have refused to consider any other alternative than the restoration of their beloved island.

The objective of the rehabilitation program is to remove the pinnacles, recontour the land and render the land useable and an area again fit for habitation. Secondary benefits will be the elimination of the 'oven' effect, revegetation and the return of birdlife. This will be a huge earthworks operation, expected to take 20 years.

Currently, there are a number of methods available to carry out the rehabilitation, and the Government has not yet decided which course it will follow.


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