International Cup 2005 Draw Analysis

Monday, January 17 2005 @ 12:53 am ACDT

Contributed by: Aaron Richard

The AFL has officially released a proposed draw for the 2005 International Cup, with each nation to play five pool matches and a playoff match from the 3rd to the 13th of August.

In a new step for international Aussie Rules, one round of matches will be played in country Victoria, promising an interesting opportunity for some exposure.

The schedule also includes a march-past of all teams before the St Kilda vs Geelong match at the Telstra Dome on Friday the 5th of August, and the final to be played at the Collingwood vs Carlton match on the Sunday August 13th.

The draw, whereby all teams will play the other five teams in their pool within two weeks, should prove quite testing. Where each squad has only 30 players for the full tournament, depth and fitness will be at a premium - and this will separate the teams by their level of professionalism.

The venues haven't yet been finalised, but they are likely to include VFL grounds and with the search for a suitable playing surface a constant dilemma for footy diehards overseas they should prove a treat.

The fourth round will be played at country venues, in conjunction with the Victorian Country Football Leauge. This could provide a huge publicity opportunity - it's easy to be the biggest show in town on novelty value alone.

But a very exciting prospect is having the final before a Carlton - Collingwood match at the MCG. The potential size of the crowd who would be there to see the final could make for some very interesting publicity...

When the International Cup was first played in 2002, the Melbourne media was fairly quiet. Crowds were small, despite free entry, and many people didn't know the matches were on. Other than a few token spots at halftime of AFL broadcasts and a few mentions on the AFL's weekly Footy Show, people didn't hear too much about it.

Reasons for this are up for speculation. It was suggested in some circles that the AFL and other parties concerned with hosting the event were anxious not to put on a display of sub-standard footy that would damage the credibility of footy's chances outside Australia, and therefore kept the tournament relatively quiet. This is an understandable sentiment, it's generally considered safer to err on the side of caution.

To be fair though, the standard was higher than some expected. A higher-grade Melbourne suburban side would still start favourites in a match against one of the better national teams, but by all accounts, the standard of a few sides in particular should be markedly improved. Papua New Guinea has had some of its best young talent playing in the Cairns AFL, the American national side put in a good performance against Balmain from the Sydney AFL, there has been time and effort put into building up the South African national side and the Japanese went from losing every match on tour a few years back to knocking off almost all comers on their 2004 tour.

All this could mean there's a little more faith in putting out the word that the matches are on. The IC 2005 will, among many other things, tell huge amounts about how seriously the AFL takes the prospect of the game developing internationally.

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