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2008 set to outshine a stellar 2007 - part two

  • Wednesday, January 02 2008 @ 03:30 pm ACDT
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General News

In this article WFN completes a review of 2007 and previews what we can expect in 2008, along with a wishlist of things we'd like to see.

Irish eyes on AFL?

Depending on how you feel about the sport, International Rules had a down year, with the GAA talking tough about wanting further watering down of the rules in Ireland's favour, and a crackdown and what they saw as mostly violence from the Australian players. Nothing has been resolved at this stage, so no juniors or seniors matches are expected in 2008, the upside meaning the elite Australian juniors will likely continue to play against a South African side in pure Aussie Rules.

No International Rules means less awareness of the AFL, but has been countered as the flood of Irish Gaelic footballers trying their hand at Aussie Rules Down Under continued, with the startling form of County Down and Collingwood's Martin Clarke making AFL recruiters sit up and take notice at just how quickly some players may be converted and maybe even go on to be a star. If the recruitment rate continues it could change the Australian and international perception of Australian Football as a mostly one country sport.

Media company Setanta Sports also contributed to the rising profile of the AFL internationally, adding coverage in a number of countries across North America and Europe.

North America continues forward

Finally to North America, and Canada had a great year. The Northwind had their first ever win over the US Revolution, played before an appreciative crowd in British Columbia. The junior league in Vancouver continued to grow, and provided the bulk of the Canadian under 17s that defeated the US juniors. The first women's international between the US and Canada was also played, with the more experienced US Freedom far too strong. Developments were exciting in Alberta, and in Ontario the OAFL had a good year, though no doubt rival clubs would've been frustrated by yet another Toronto Eagles premiership - their 11th. The season was capped by a visit from Kevin Sheedy and the announcement of Ottawa entering the league in 2008.

The United States AFL celebrated 10 years of US footy and saw record numbers attend their Nationals in Kentucky, solid junior progress with juniors and women's footy, and the continued consolidation of clubs through the development of their metro leagues. The Denver Bulldogs reclaimed their Division 1 title from San Diego, Baltimore-Washington made big strides up the ladder as well as winning the Eastern AFL flag, and the premier of the re-structured MAAFL was Chicago United.

The USAFL also added more talent to their advisory boards, with big names such as Peter Schwab and former AFL CEO Wayne Jackson signing up. There was also increased awareness of the AFL through having Aussie Matt McBriar kicking in the NFL Probowl along with Ben Graham and Sav Rocca plying their wares. But perhaps the most exciting news was the pending completion of the football-suitable venue at Fort Lauderdale in Florida. In competition with that story was the ongoing success of the Brunmeier brothers with the West Perth reserves in the Western Australian Football League. It's arguably the fourth best league in the world, and certainly a peer of the second and third best leagues in the SANFL and VFL (in no particular order). Jared had a solid season and James had a good season, finishing sixth in the club's reserves best and fairest. That's the highest mark a US player has achieved so far, and must be a great inspiration to young American footy players. And finally there was the announcement by the AFL of a World Club Challenge, likely to be played at Florida's new stadium in 2009.

The Cup

And of course the AFL officially announced the 2008 Australian Football International Cup in Melbourne and Warrnambool, with 16 to 20 nations expected to be represented. Already Kevin Sheedy has been a regular spruiker for the August/September tournament, which has added to the Australian media coverage.

Thanks

On a personal note we'd like to thank our readers and contributors for a great 2007. Our readership grew for the third year in a row, with the average number of daily visits to our site up nearly 40% on the previous year. Keep checking in for the latest international Aussie Rules news, keep telling your friends and colleagues about the sport and keep pointing them at worldfootynews.com to help spread the word.

Can it get any better?

So can 2008 top 2007? Of course! Although the year just finished was great for the game, it is growing from a relatively small worldwide base, so the potential is huge. We really should see a PNG developed player make an AFL list within 3 years, and a South African within 5 years - possibly less in both cases. We'll also see more international players head to Oz to try their hand, with some making state league level - but that may take a few more years. But think of any 2007 advance and there's a good chance 2008 will see the same or better. Here's a list of just some of the major highlights we expect to see this year:

  • AFL match in South Africa - Fremantle versus Carlton
  • 3 more community camps by AFL clubs in South Africa
  • AFL match in Dubai - Collingwood versus Adelaide
  • Around 18 nations at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup

    Our wishlist, whilst remaining realistic:

  • AFL match in London and US (LA or Florida)
  • AFL community camps in NZ and PNG, laying foundation for future matches
  • AFL to consider appointing full time representative for each major region, physically based in that region
  • Chinese footy numbers to continue to grow at 2007 rates
  • South African footy numbers to continue to grow at 2007 rates
  • 10 international juniors invited (and funded) to AFL AIS camp
  • At least 1 international junior listed to a club's AFL International Scholarship List
  • India to show clear establishment of a footy program
  • A South American country to commence a footy program (or evidence of Argentina's program growing)
  • Good crowds and media coverage for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup
  • The AFL work closely with Cricket Australia to ensure full sized ovals continue to be a feature of metropolitan Australia