26 Jul 2017

Sport: Nauru Chiefs aiming high at the AFL International Cup

5:33 am on 26 July 2017

The Nauru Chiefs are targeting a top four finish at the AFL International Cup, which gets underway in Melbourne next weekend.

The Micronesian nation finished seventh in the men's division one competition in 2014, despite only losing one of their five matches.

Vice Captain Kenneth Oppenheimer made his international debut at that event and believes Nauru were and are better than their final placing suggests.

"I don't think the way they did the ladder then was very fair because we only lost one game against the Irish," he said.

"I don't think we're actually the (seventh) in the world..we're a bit higher than that, I do believe so."

The Nauru Chiefs at the 2014 AFL International Cup.

The Nauru Chiefs at the 2014 AFL International Cup. Photo: Supplied

Kenneth Oppenheimer started playing AFL when he was 11 years old, as part of the Auskick development programme, and said more than 200 players now compete in the local league every week.

The International Cup comes around every three years and he said it was an important event for developing AFL nations.

"For the Nauruans it means a lot. It's the one that we really take pride in and we really try to do our best in," he said.

"Because it is our national sport and the boys come back to Nauru and we expect to get a little bit out of it, in terms of our pride and where AFl really stands for us.

"I think it means a lot for the countries, especially for Nauru."

Nauru Chiefs vice captain Kenneth Oppenheimer (C)

Nauru Chiefs vice captain Kenneth Oppenheimer (C) Photo: Supplied

Nauru face a daunting start to the competition against the New Zealand Hawks but Kenneth Oppenheimer said it was a challenge they plan to embrace.

"It's a really hard draw but with the way they're doing it this year it's much fairer for the developing countries and it gives us a good chance to actually see where we're sitting and if we play the better sides unlike the last time," he said.

"Up against the Kiwis first...we hear that they're the favourites so I think they'll be tough and of course the defending champions Papua New Guinea in the second round, they'll be another tough challenge.

"But we will see how we go - we're quite confident we will give them a good go and maybe win against both teams hopefully."

Nauru will also face France and Canada in the group phase, while Fiji and Papua New Guinea have teams entered in both the men's and women's top divisions.

The Nauru Chiefs in training.

The Nauru Chiefs in training. Photo: Supplied