Aussie Rules or International Rules?
Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 12:23 am ACDT
Contributed by: Brett Northey
Aussie Rules or International Rules? That has been the question some Australian Football fans have been asking since the re-birth of the hybrid game several years ago. Arguments are made for and against the concept, with some seeing International Rules as a vehicle for promoting Aussie Rules amongst younger Australians who want to see international competition and also as a tool for growing awareness in the footy community of international possibilities for our game. Others condemn it as barely a hybrid and more a slightly modified version of Gaelic football and question whether the AFL will not back Australian Football and forsee a future of International Rules only. Of course most people hold a view somewhere in between these extremes, or haven't given it much thought at all. Recently David Matthews, the AFL's General Manager of National and International Game Development, gave his views on what role International Rules may have long term and whether that clashes with dreams of Australian Football going global.
Particular concern was raised when an Australian Indigenous youth side travelled to South Africa in early 2006 and played a three match series against the locals. The first game was under International Rules, and some felt it indicated the AFL envisaged the hybrid as the future. Indeed AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou suggested a 3-way series between Australia, Ireland and South Africa might one day be on the cards. Since then Australia has contested another physical series against the Irish which resulted in the GAA suspending the series for 2007, with no word yet on the sport's future. Whether this has changed the AFL's thinking or whether they only ever saw it as a short to medium term option is unknown.
David Matthews was interviewed in Darwin where he was attending the TIO Stadium double-header which saw South Africa's developmental side take on the QANTAS Kickstart Indigenous Youth team, followed by Essendon against the Indigenous All-Stars. The discussion was wide-ranging and pleasingly the questions from Charlie King indicated a good understanding of international development issues. The interview was shown at half-time of the All-Stars versus Essendon match, on ABC2, the national broadcaster's second digital channel. King asked "David this football is actually pure Australian Rules football as opposed to the hybrid game that they had in the International Rules series, what's the future for international football, is it about developing that hybrid game or is it about taking this game to the international community?" The response was very clear from Matthews - "Well the countries I've been talking about play Australian Football. That's the game they're playing. The International Rules series I think has been a good exercise for both the GAA and AFL in the sense that it's actually giving the elite athletes at the highest level in both games an opportunity they otherwise wouldn't have. Maybe 25, 50 years time maybe it's an Australian versus South Africa senior series at some point, who knows, if you wanted to extrapolate it right out, but in the interim and in the short term, I think that there's some real good appeal and the fans are supporting the International Rules whenever it's been played and it's had some difficulties just in integrating the rules but I think you'll see a place for it in the future but I do think, I do say that the opportunity for us in South Africa is about Australian Football."
So it appears that from the point of view of the people in Game Development that International Rules has a role in providing Australia with international competition in the short and medium term if the GAA and AFL can come to terms, but their vision for the long term future of international footy is indeed Australian Football. This doesn't necessarily end the debate, but is reassuring to hear for those that continue to dream of international Aussie Rules.