Contributed by: Brett Northey
Western Australia's Subiaco Lions have become the first Australian Football club below AFL level to visit South Africa as part of the sport's growing push into the region.
AFL clubs have visited in the past, as have AFL junior and indigenous squads and the Convicts tourist team, and now the first state league side has joined the party.
A very large squad of 44 players and officials is making the trip, and they will follow in the footsteps of some of the earlier trips to the region. They'll also conduct FootyWild clinics in Johannesburg's Alexandra township, and have a game with the South African players in Potchefstroom. It sounds like that game will involve mixing the Lions with the South Africans to form two teams - an excellent way to share knowledge and ensure a competitive match.
Western Australia, widely regarded as Australia's boom state with a huge amount of investment due to the mining industry, has the closest relationship with South Africa of all the Aussie states. Geographically it is the closest, and most flights between the two countries go via Perth. The West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers have taken on a province each to develop Australian Football, and some of the reciprocal tours have featured matches in Perth, see for example South Africa Youth vs Indigenous Youth - Tour Review. The West Australian Football Commission has been keen to get involved in overseas development, as evidenced by a report we did back in 2005 - Western Australia to target development for Indian Ocean region?.
The plans involving India obviously fell through, but the Western Australian AFL clubs now are indeed actively involved in Africa. With West Perth also embracing US players (see Making the Grade in the West - updated), it seems WA is leading the way for international footy. Victoria also features reasonably well as the obvious traditional drawcard, Queensland is doing well through its support of PNG, the NT the Arafura Games, and the ACT has the Barassi Youth Tournament. That just leaves NSW, South Australia and Tasmania as not playing particularly active roles (or not that comes to mind), though the Adelaide Crows' first NAB Cup match of 2008 will be against Collingwood in Dubai.
The Subiaco tour was due to commence on October 18th and last nine days, so we hope to have a report soon and how it all went.
See Lions to go on Safari for more details, or visit the Subiaco Lions website.
World Footy News