Contributed by: Brett Northey
The AFL has asked for expressions of interest from countries wishing to attend the 2011 International Cup, to be held in Australia in August 2011, almost certainly in Melbourne and possibly a Victorian country area.
While we await the official list, here is some speculation about possible attendees.
The 2008 Cup, in finishing order, was:
1. Papua New Guinea
2. New Zealand
3. South Africa
9. Great Britain
13. Peace Team
Most of those nations would have a high probability of returning, with finances being the only likely issue for most (nevertheless a big issue). Perhaps the Peace Team will be in greatest doubt, and India is in the process of attempts to re-boot the game, so may be dependent on the success of the student league in development with Surrey Park in Melbourne.
Spain attended in 2005 but not 2008, and the AFL were open to the idea of Catalonia attending in 2008, so sides from one or both of those could be possibilities.
Tonga attended the 2008 Cup as part of the Multicultural community division (and was almost in the main draw), playing against Team Asia and Team Africa, but were hoping to join the main event soon. Any nation that sends a team to this year's senior Oceania Cup in Auckland will be a chance, which includes Tonga and Fiji, and may possibly include New Caledonia, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. In particular Fiji, who received AFL assistance in hosting the 2009 Oceania Youth Cup, have already indicated that they intend on being in Melbourne for the IC11.
Other countries that have been developing local players that could qualify include Italy, Croatia, France, Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Iceland, Andorra and Norway.
Officials from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Iceland and Croatia have all informally expressed an interest, and all of those must be reasonable chances.
5. New Caledonia
7. Solomon Islands
11. Czech Republic
If all 16 return from the third Cup, and with 16 more "possibles" identified above, 2011 could see as many as 32 teams! But given the large financial commitment required, more likely hope to see about 20 to 24.
If indeed that many teams head Down Under, it again emphasises the need for the competition to be split into two divisions - it's difficult to see how any 1 to 2 week tournament could fairly separate 24 nations, and indeed the gap between the top and bottom could see "unproductive" contests.
Also unanswered is the possibility of some kind of Australian side being entered, such as an amateur under 18 team, but that is probably just wishful thinking by this author. Also wishful thinking would be to see one of the South American nations attend for the first time. But even without them, having such a long list of possible contenders is a great sign that our game truly is expanding dramatically.
Did we miss any countries? Did we list any that definitely will not be there? Let us know.
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