Aussie youth squad off to South Africa

Saturday, April 11 2009 @ 05:18 pm ACST

Contributed by: Brett Northey

For the third year in a row the AIS-AFL Australian Under 17 squad will head off to South Africa (departing tomorrow, Sunday 12th April) for a tour that will include training, sight-seeing, working with the locals and a match against the South Africa Lions.

It's expected that the Lions will be a senior squad similar to that which finished third at last year's International Cup and was ranked fourth in the world behind only Australia, PNG and New Zealand in our 2008 rankings. Jason McCartney is expected to again coach the Africans and a few new talented juniors will be given an opportunity. AFL South Africa Operations Manager Joel Kelly told worldfootynews.com that "Several invitational spots (are) being offered to new ‘yet to be identified talent’ as part of a broader search". The match will be played at Boland Park, Capetown at 3:30pm on Monday 20th April - it has been moved from the better known Newlands due to the sudden transfer to South Africa of Indian's Premier League cricket tournament because of terrorism fears on the sub-continent. Boland Park is described as being in Paarl, "in the beautiful wine district of the Western Cape".

Gold Coast's coach, Guy McKenna, has also been mentioned as making the trip, despite his team underway in the TAC Cup. No doubt his attention will mostly be on Australia's next wave, but given the willingness to sign up two Papua New Guinea players already, surely he will also be very interested in the performance of the younger South African players.

The trip is book-ended by matches against VFL and WAFL sides in Australia. More details follow below.

The Australian Under 17 squad will play Williamstown, the Western Bulldogs VFL affiliate club in a challenge match at Docklands on Saturday prior to the St Kilda versus West Coast match.

The 18-day tour South Africa tour also includes matches in Cape Town and Perth.

Head Coach Alan McConnell said the opportunity to travel with and learn from the assistant coaching panel consisting of Nathan Buckley, Jason McCartney and Marcus Ashcroft will be priceless in the development of the AFL’s next generation of stars.

“This tour will not only provide invaluable football development, it will also provide tremendous opportunities for personal growth.

“Visits to the Sparrow HIV Village and Soweto, famous for its struggle against the apartheid regime are both key dates on the itinerary,” Mr McConnell said.

National and International Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan said the 30 young players also have the unique opportunity to play a role in the development and promotion of the game in South Africa.

“South Africa’s ‘FootyWILD’ program launched two years ago by the AIS-AFL Academy has experienced rapid growth in participation rates across all ages. ‘FootyWILD’ is an adapted version of NAB AFL Auskick, now with over 17,000 participants across South Africa. Australia’s finest young footballers will conduct ‘FootyWILD’ clinics to help further expand the game,” Sheehan said.

Of last year’s 30 player Australian squad, 24 have successfully made the transition to AFL clubs via last November’s NAB AFL Draft, including Jack Watts (Melbourne), Jack Ziebell (North Melbourne), Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood) and Michael Hurley (Essendon).

The tour will visit various communities and townships in Gauteng, the North West Province and the Western Cape. Highlights will include a return visit to Sparrow HIV Village and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, footyWILD clinics in Tembisa (Johannesburg) and Khayelitsha (Cape Town), the thrill of Big 5 game parks in the North West followed by the sobriety of world famous Robben Island in Cape Town where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.

Tour matches – times are local

Saturday April 11

Australian Under 17 v Williamstown (VFL side)

Curtain-raiser to St Kilda v West Coast

Docklands at 11.15am


Monday April 20

Australia Under 17 v South Africa Lions

Boland Park, Paarl, Capetown at 3:30pm


Saturday April 25 (Anzac Day)

Australia Under 17 v Peel Thunder (WAFL side)

Curtain-raiser to Fremantle v Sydney

Subiaco Oval at 3:30pm

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