AFL drive Fiji

2 October 2018

By: ABC - Margaret Burin

Girl kicking a footbal ona field at night.
'Pain is temporary, quitting is forever'. These are the words of Matelita Tuilevuka – the driving force behind the growing AFL presence in rugby-dominated Fiji. Image: ABC - Margaret Burin.

"This is our MCG," says Matelita Tuilevuka.

She's rounding up about 30 men and women who've turned up to an AFL training session at Albert Park in Suva.

Some of them have walked up to two hours to be here because they can't afford the $1.50 FJD bus fare.

'Ma' may be small but the 22-year-old has no trouble commanding the attention of some of the biggest men in front of her.

That's fortunate, because she's been tasked with helping the Australian aid-supported AFL program spread the game across Fiji.

Their training is high-intensity, and they hit hard.

"We've had other teams from other countries telling us off at the ground, 'this is not rugby, play AFL' because we were a bit too rough for them," Ma says.

"There would be someone getting a handball and there'd be two or three girls tackling them at once."

Pushing Australian Rules Football in a country of rugby fanatics has its challenges.

Often it involves Ma spending many hours calling around schools, trying to convince the head teacher that it's something their students should try.

"It doesn't stop me. I keep on going, keep asking them."

And then there's the bigger conversation, about women and sport.

Find out more: 'Pain is temporary, quitting is forever': one tiny woman's huge AFL drive

Last Updated: 2 October 2018