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Recruiters eye South Pacific

Jennifer Witham  July 8, 2010 2:45 PM

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Theo Gavuri in action for the South Pacific team in the NAB AFL U16 Championships

THE SOUTH Pacific has the potential to be a recruiting gold mine according to AFL talent manager Kevin Sheehan.

The future talent has been on display at the NAB AFL Under 16 Championships this week.

After beating the World XVIII by 32 points in round one, the Trent Croad-led side fell just 15 points short of Queensland on Wednesday despite many of its players being relatively new to the game.

Sheehan believes the "enormous spirit and heart" the South Pacific representatives played with, along with the incredible natural talent they displayed, indicated the region was a recruiting ground in waiting.

"It pleased us all from a futuristic point of view to realise there is enormous potential in this part of the world," he told afl.com.au.

"They play our game with a similar flare to our own indigenous players but they have the added component of the tough tackling.

"Their quickness and power … their first couple of steps, to get away and put pressure on oppositions really was obvious."

Sheehan said the emergence of the South Pacific representatives, who hail from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Nauru, Solomon Islands and New Zealand, had increased the interest of recruiters in this year's December AFL Youth Oceania Cup.

The Cup will be held in Tonga, after they their inaugural trophy last year in Fiji.

Sheehan said the South Pacific had a really good chance of beating the Northern Territory on Saturday after shocking all in attendance at the championships with its form against Queensland.

"Everyone thought they would get nowhere near Queensland," he said.

"They matched them right from the start and in the third quarter even got within four points.

"It was quite a sensation to see the level at which these kids played. They really had their best group of under 16 boys they think they've ever had.

"The sceptics, if there were any amongst some of the people watching from some of the clubs, were quickly stopped in their tracks at the standard of the team that included two of Israel Folau's [second] cousins."

South Pacific's best players so far have been Theo Gavuri (PNG), Greg Aki (PNG), Dylan Wolfgramm (Fiji), Liam Ackland (NZ), Slim Collins (PNG), Wingti Pena (PNG), Larry Nao (PNG), and Peni Mahini (Tonga), who is one of Folau's second cousins.