From humble beginnings, the Arafura Games are now recognised as a leading international sporting competition for emerging athletes of the Asia Pacific region. Held every two years in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, the Games are billed as a meeting of 'sporting neighbours' and attract competitors from all parts of Australia, Nations throughout Asia Pacific, and beyond.
The Arafura Games began in 1991 as the Arafura Sports Festival, with 1500 participants from seven countries, competing in 13 sports. By the time the Games were held in 2009, participation had doubled with athletes representing more than 40 nations, with competition in 27 sports.
Four New Zealand boxers contested the 1997 Arufura Games Boxing Finals, with the medal haul being two Gold and two Silver. The Gold Medals were won by two of the finest Kiwi pugilists of the modern era
Heavyweight Garth da Silva, numbered Gold medals at the Mayors Cup (Philippines) and the Presidents Cup (Indonesia) along with Bronze at the Liverpool Cup and Ali Cup, amongst his international achievements.
Auckland Super Heavyweight Faii Falamoe, won Gold medals at the prestigious (Muhammad) Ali Cup and Presidents Cup, which sit alongside Oceania and Arafura Gold Medals won by the talented boxer.
The best performance of the decade was the 1997 Presidents Cup, with da Silva and Falamoe along with Regan Foley, contesting the Gold Medal contests. The New Zealand team finished the tournament in second place behind Uzbekistan and ahead of teams such as USA, Russia and Korea.
In the Arufura Finals, Garth proved too strong for Indonesian Retz Kakaria, with Faii defeating Jacobus Oberholler from South Africa. The two Silver Medal were picked up by David Baird in the Welterweight class, with Light Middleweight Emmett Gradwell also awarded Silver
Welterweight – David Baird (Auckland) Silver (Final - lost to Meckson Barataman Indonesia)
Light Middleweight – Emmett Gradwell (Auckland) Silver (Final - lost to Jeremy Allen WA)
Heavyweight – Garth da Silva (Christchurch) Gold (Final - defeated Reitz Jakaria Indonesia)
Super Heavyweight – Faii Falamoe (Auckland) Gold (Final – defeated Jacobus Oberholler South Africa)
The 1999 Arufura Games, did not produce the success of the 1997 team. Just Jason Hepi made a final stanza, where he defeated Jamie Sammut from Western Australia to take home the sole Kiwi Gold Medal.
Bronze medals were presented Ramil Abubot and Lance Bryant.
Lightweight – Ramil Abubot (Auckland) Bronze
Middleweight – Lance Bryant (Masterton) Bronze
Super Heavyweight - Jason Hepi (Christchurch) Gold (Final – defeated Jamie Sammut WA)
Three Gold in 2001 was a good reward, with triple success coming in the Light Welterweight, Welterweight and Light Middleweight divisions.
Canterbury Light Welterweight Brad Milner, who had won the Light Welter National title in Christchurch the previous year, was the first Kiwi to have a gold medallion placed around his neck, when he defeated an Indonesian opponent.
Daniel Codling who annexed the 2000 and 2001 National Welter crowns, won Gold, one bout after Milner’s success. He defeated a real warhorse beating New South Wales Goran Pivac in the final stanza. Daniel went on to win a Bronze Medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Kahukura Bentson who seems to have been around forever, added to his considerable International success - winning the third Kiwi Gold Medal when he beat Joko Suryoni from Indonesia.
The second New Zealand Welterweight also had success, with Julian Scully returning home with Bronze.
Light Welterweight – Brad Milner (Christchurch) Gold (Final - defeated S Binlay Indonesia)
Welterweight – Daniel Codling (Auckland) Gold (Final – defeated Goran Pavic NSW)
Light Middleweight – Kahukura Bentson (Auckland) Gold (Final – defeated Joko Suryono Indonesia)
Light Middleweight - Julian Scully (Christchurch) Bronze
The 2003 Arufura Games never took place, being cancelled a few weeks out, because of the SAR epidemic that swept the world.