World footy rankings for 2006
Saturday, May 19 2007 @ 09:37 am ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
There are no official rankings for international Australian Football, and putting together such a list is fraught with difficulties such as the lack of regular international matches, questions of whether teams fielded their best sides, and the thorny issue of whether to only consider matches played under International Cup rules, not to mention the risk of upsetting people who have a strong attachment to their side. Nevertheless, WFN has thrown caution to the wind and had a go at ranking nations based on their form in recent years, up to the end of 2006 - read on to see where your favourite team was listed.
Firstly a note about the difficulties involved. We've decided to primarily only consider matches and sides playing under International Cup style rules. We're well aware of many other matches and arguments that they are valid games, but at the end of the day it isn't possible to do a separate list for each criteria, and we can't sensibly roll all results into the one table. For example, if we include national sides that largely consist of expatriate Australians, such as Singapore, but compare their ability with say the British Bulldogs (strictly "locals" only), then depending on the expats, the Brits may well be soundly beaten in a hypothetical match, thus lowly ranked on a world rankings table. But if Singapore was fielding expats then theoretically the Bulldogs could or would equally select their best side from all players in the UK, in which case their team too would be mostly expats, and a very strong one indeed. A uniform set of rules is needed for comparing "apples with apples". So our analysis is based on teams approximately adhering to the AFL's 2005 IC rules - other sides are completely legitimate for their purposes but not ranked here for this particular table.
In terms of judging form from recent matches, in the past the great bulk of matches satisfying the above criteria were part of the 2002 and 2005 International Cups, with little other competition. But as we reported in Footy internationals 2006 - The List, last year saw a great number of internationals, some of which will be helpful in our analysis. So with 2002 IC results in mind (see our 2002 International Cup page), but with the much more recent 2005 Cup results as a starting point, plus results from 2006, our group of WFN writers has voted on their rankings for teams to the end of 2006. The results were aggregated to give what we'll call the WFN World Rankings - purely done for interest's sake and not meant to be considered the definitive list.
At the end of the day there haven't been enough internationals to radically re-define the relative strengths of teams since the 2005 IC, Aussie Rules' defacto World Cup. Ireland are assumed to be still reasonably strong but with Great Britain fairing okay against them in London last year they must be seen as increasingly competitve - is that Ireland's fall continuing or the rise of the Bulldogs? Perhaps the most to be learnt is in the area of up and coming countries. Clearly Sweden are improving, and may be competitive at the lower end of International Cup nations. Germany is still early in its preparations, as are France. Most of the other European countries are still heavily expat-dependent, so from the perspective of the 2005 International Cup rules are still a long way off.
Turning now to he junior level we see that South Africa's young talent is looking good but is yet to realise its potential at senior level, whilst PNG is clearly showing promising results in age groups on the edge of senior ranks. Other countries such as Denmark, the UK and Canada have some promising juniors, but in the case of the latter two, aren't yet old enough to make an impact on the senior sides.
2007 will probably see even more internationals played as many countries prepare for the 2008 International Cup, which the AFL has flagged will see greater support as part of the celebrations marking the nominal 150 years since the earliest known rules of Australian Football were first set down (though of course the game has undergone continuous change since then). At this early stage there doesn't appear to be a lot of relative change amongst the world's top footy countries, but a surprise or two may yet emerge, and there is always interest to see which new countries will arrive on Australian Football's centre stage.
One final point - these rankings are based on the relative strengths of the teams as estimated by our writers. It is not a ranking based purely on results. An analogy would be world basketball. If Australia happened to knock off the US Dream Team, in our ranking system, we wouldn't automatically put Australia number 1 and the US number 2, without considering other form and exceptional circumstances. So again, these rankings are where our writers see the countries positioned at the end of 2006.
Enough about caveats - we're simply trying to make the process as transparent as possible. On to the rankings....
But first a reminder of the finishing order at the 2005 International Cup:
|2.||Papua New Guinea|
And now, based on the aggregate rankings of nine of our writers, here is our end of 2006 table:
|2.||Papua New Guinea|
Other countries were not ranked as there is no practical information about their likely abilities or they are unlikely to have been able to satisfy the International Cup criteria in providing a 22+ player squad featuring qualified locals only.
There's probably no great surprises in the order. Big movers were South Africa, as to be expected with their fast-tracked program - though they were rated anywhere from first to eighth, making them the nation our team were most unsure about. New Zealand could feel a bit harshly done-by given they are reigning champions and have not played against any of the other nations since. Four different countries all received at least one first place vote - PNG, NZ, USA and RSA, with PNG the most consistently number one ranked side. There are also high expectations of Denmark, given they haven't contested with any of the top nations for many years. With such a wide variety of footy programs across the world it's nice to see that there is still likely to be plenty of interest when sides clash, given such uncertainty.
And a final reminder that this is not a list of tips for the forthcoming 2008 International Cup - indeed the likely attendee list features a different mix of sides. See 2008 International Cup - country attendance likelihood list for more details.