Contributed by: Brett Northey
In part one of our interview with AFL Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan we discussed the AFL's plans for a new International Development Committee featuring influential people from within the AFL's structure, and funding issues for affiliates and potential new countries to the international Australian Football scene. In the second and concluding part of the interview we discuss a possible international Scholarship program, AFL club interest in South Africa, and the third International Cup in 2008.
WFN: The NSW apprenticeship scheme is now getting underway, with AFL clubs each signing up one or two youngsters from NSW, outside of the traditional footy areas toward the Victorian border. These boys will have increased access to high level coaching and receive a nice financial incentive too. At the time the program was announced it was suggested international youngsters may also be eligible for a similar scheme. Is that still on the cards? If so are there further details of when it will occur, what will be put in place, and what countries will be eligible?
Kevin: Your summation is correct; the AFL Scholarship Program as it is officially known commenced in NSW on the 1st May 2006 with already 10 players winning the opportunity to be part of an AFL Club's new Scholarship list with up to 32 positions available until the signing period ends on 31st January 2007. The concept of extending this idea internationally is currently being considered by the AFL Commission.
WFN: The Western Australian Football Commission has expressed an interest in helping develop the game overseas, particularly around the Indian Ocean region and specifically South Africa, where the AFL is already involved in a very successful program. Fremantle and now West Coast are also interested in pre-season camps and perhaps coaching assistance and maybe even an apprentice scheme. Are Game Development considering these proposals, and are we likely to see any positive announcements in the near future?
Kevin: The AFL certainly has had expressions of interest from a number of AFL Clubs including Fremantle and the West Coast Eagles as well as the WAFC in partnering the AFL in developing the game in South Africa. It's all part of the current deliberations being undertaken by the “International Development Committee” as they analyse the opportunity to grow the game in South Africa. Currently there are 22 Community Leagues in 3 of the Provinces of South Africa with more than 100 teams and 2,530 players predominantly at the Under 13 and Under 16 level.
WFN: Looking ahead, the third International Cup occurs in 2008, the year which is being regarded as the nominal 150th celebration of the beginnings of Australian Football. People are anticipating the AFL will budget for some major events during the year to commemorate the anniversary. Do you think the International Cup will be a major part of that, with a push to raise its profile?
Kevin: Once again your assumptions are correct. The 3rd AFL International Cup has been scheduled for 2008 when the game of Australian Football will celebrate its 150th year since Melbourne Grammar played Scotch College on the fields near the MCG in the first officially recorded game. We envisage the AFL International Cup will be a prominent part of that celebration as various parts of the world now share in what we regard as the “Greatest Game in the World” – Australian Football.
WFN: Many thanks for the opportunity to explore these issues. It would appear that a great deal of thought has gone into developing plans for the future, drawing together a lot of common sense ideas and wishlists that have been floating around the international footy community for several years. The last International Cup and growing numbers of players overseas have demonstrated Australian Football's worldwide potential, and it appears the AFL are putting in place the right structures to help realise that potential.
World Footy News