Contributed by: Brett Northey
The recent airing in Australia (March 2005) of the FOXFooty documentary filmed at the 2004 US Nationals was long-awaited. Tiffany Cherry's 30 minute review of the game in the US included interviews with several key people in US Footy and the AFL, including Kevin Sheedy and AFL General Manager of Game Development, David Matthews. For the benefit of those unable to see the documentary, a review is given here.
Essendon coach Sheedy, a long-time advocate of internationalising Aussie Rules, emphasised this again by attending the tournament and stating "We've got rock'n roll and we've got to sell it to the world", alluding to how this great sport has yet to get the exposure it deserves. Sheedy obviously arrived with realistic expectations, and was clearly pleased with the standard of football and the organisation of the Nationals, held in Atlanta last year. "I don't know what's going to happen in the next 10 or 20 years but it's starting to get pretty exciting". There was also a tantalising mention of a meeting with a mayor in Florida wanting to build a ground "the size of the MCG for cricket", but Sheedy's involvement suggests footy would be kept in mind too.
Also making cameos were John Meier (US Western V.P.), Ojaf "Juice" Desai (NY Magpies), Ryan Shortill (Boston Demons), Darryl Butler and Jim Martin (St Louis Blues), former VFL/AFL player John Ironmonger (now playing in the Golden Gate AFL) and Ruben Murray (former VFL star Kevin Murray's great nephew). Others interviewed were Kevin Morris (former Essendon assistant and West Adelaide coach), American youngster Jack Piggott, and the Milwaukee Bombers' scholarship winner James Brunmeier.
Sheedy's 19 year old Sam joined in with one side, no doubt adding some family interest. Kevin went on to say that "One day we're going to get a fantastic American player playing AFL footy and if it's 10 or 20 years well who cares as long as we do the ground work now". Excitingly he also mentioned the on-again off-again attempts to get an AFL match in Los Angeles at the Australia Week Festival. "If the AFL are going to have a game over here of any seriousness I hope we're (Essendon) in it, I hope the Bombers are in it". He referred to a meeting he would have with John Olsen (former Premier of South Australia and the current Australian Consul-General in LA), saying they would discuss options for a US west coast match. North Melbourne have previously made it clear they wish to play a match in LA.
The program spoke at length with USAFL President Mark Wheeler, and a key player in the AFL hierarchy, David Matthews. Tiffany Cherry asked Matthews "What are you going to say to Andrew (Demetriou) and the (AFL) Executive when you go back to Australia about this?". Matthews replied "Oh look the message will be similar to what it is about development generally, and that is that in Australia we're built on volunteers and enthusiastis who carry our game forward at every level below the AFL and no different here. We've got a group of really committed enthusiasts both expats and Americans who are really prepared to get their hands dirty and work hard to make this game, basically develop this game to its full potential in the US. So I just want to be talking to Andrew and the Executive and saying certainly the support we're providing has been money well invested. It's not a significant amount of money but it does help and I think that any other ways we can provide this group some assistance then we should certainly be looking at those."
One final word - it was interesting to note that Kevin Sheedy was wearing a cap with a simple but strong statement - "Make it happen".
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