Indigenous Aussies take series 3 - 0 but South African footy a winner
Wednesday, March 08 2006 @ 11:15 am ACDT
Contributed by: Brett Northey
The Australian indigenous youth footy tour of South Africa has come to an end with the Aboriginal lads winning all three matches comfortably. But the tour was a great experience for the South Africans and if the tour becomes a regular event as hoped then the benefits will be all the greater. We review each of the three games, played in Potchefstroom, Mafikeng and Stellenbosch, with thanks to AFL South Africa Development Officer Jack Arnold for the information. Apologies for lack of information about the Australian details - understandably the busy AFL South Africa staff were focussed on their team. Photos to follow later.
Game 1 – International Rules (Potchefstroom, North West Province)
South Africa 5 - 1 – 6 – 39
Australia 9 – 12 – 17 – 107
Best players for South Africa – Benji Motuba, Odin Williams, Steven Malinga, Obed Phologane, Keagile Garenamotse
For those new to International Rules, the scoreline is unders - like a soccer goal, overs (like an Aussie Rules goal) and behinds, worth 6, 3 and 1 respectively.
The game was played at Mohadin Stadium in the Indian township, where the Convicts played the first game in their 2005 tour. Steven ‘Papi’ Malinga kicked 4 unders for South Africa. Malinga was a classy player in the 2005 International Cup, booting 5 goals in the Buffaloes' match against Spain in Wangaratta and regularly his side's best player. Benji Motuba, who spent a season with Lyrup in South Australia's Riverland courtesy of a scholarship, was best for the locals on the day. There was a small crowd, mainly invited guests and local kids from the township. The Potch Herald and SABC were there to cover the game, along with the Australian ABC Indigenous affairs program ‘Message Stick’.
The game was played to a high standard considering that it was the first time both teams had played with the round ball. South Africa got blown away in the first quarter but managed a great fight back in the second, but again in the third got blown away. The last quarter was a fairly even affair. When the Australian boys got on top, they took control and piled on the goals, whilst South Africa couldn’t manage to play consistently good footy. Jack explained that "the South African boys tended to try and go for the under when scoring an over would have been a much more viable option, we had the ball in scoring range a fair bit but wanted to go for glory". This would be familiar to fans of International Rules who have seen Australia's AFL stars fall for the same temptation.
Jason McCartney was assisting Head Coach Mtutu Hlomela and Jack with the coaching and was also on the ground the majority of the game helping the South African players.
Game 2 – Footy (Mafikeng, North West Province)
South Africa 3 – 3 – 21
Australia 13 – 10 - 88
Best Players for South Africa – Bryan Mitchell, Benji Motuba, Odin Williams, Obed Phologane, Paseka Matshana
The game was played at the International School of South Africa. Unfortunately on the day it poured with rain, limiting the crowd a lot.
The first half was played in dryish conditions, in the second half the game was played in pouring rain making it a more even contest. South Africa actually outscored the Australians 2 – 2 – 14 to nothing in the last quarter. It should be remembered that the indigenous team are a top quality outfit, with predictions some will ultimately play at the highest level. Jack explains that the Aussies were too good. "In the first half we were pretty much out classed, the Australians far more skilled, had cleaner hands and were quicker! Again in this game the South Africans managed to play a good quarter and a bit. If we could play as we do when we play well we would be much more competitive. I think the consistency will come with playing regularly".
"No South African media were in attendance because they had already attended the Potch game. They didn’t realise the difference in the two games. The ABC program was there again, but didn’t cover the game, they were more interested in the players. The program is not a sports program but an Indigenous affairs show. Mtutu did an interview for the Sunday Times, which was published last Sunday. Again Jason McCartney was helping with the coaching and was on the ground a lot of the time".
Game 3 – Footy (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
South Africa 6 – 6 – 42
Australia 18 – 9 – 117
Best Players for South Africa – Odin Williams, Julian Horn, Abie McFarlane, Steven Malinga, McDonald Mashigo.
The game was played at the Stellenbosch town cricket field. A small crowd made up of invited guests, students and people passing by - unfortunately it rained again. The Stellenbosch University paper covered the game, the ABC program again, but no other media. A paper in Cape Town ran a story and picture of both teams meeting with former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which was also widely reported in the Australian press.
Jack's thoughts: "In this game we were again outclassed, but still managed to have good patches in the game. As I said earlier if only we could string it together for longer periods or for the entire game we would be much more competitive. I think it was the second quarter when we played very well and took the game up to the Australians".
The final match of the series also saw the debut of a promising new recruit. Cape Town's Sandile Xhasa had his first game of footy and performed very well, with hopes that more players like him can be recruited from the Western Cape. Moving into more provinces will be important for the sport. Mtutu recruited Xhasa over the Christmas holidays when he was visiting family in Cape Town. He is a rugby full back, has very good hands and can read the ball well in the air.
The player of the series for South Africa was Odin Williams. For AFL South Africa the scoreboard was not overly important in this early stage of the game's development. "We were just looking to see improvement in our players and the way we played the game. I think we saw this and hopefully we can get some more experiences like this in the near future. This tour was excellent for footy in South Africa, it gave our players experience to high quality opposition and I am sure they learnt a lot from it".
The big question now will be whether the AFL saw enough to keep investing in the country. There's no denying that they made an encouraging first advance back in 1998 (see Lions in South Africa - 1998 for a great report on their first foray) before effectively turning away from the continent. After solid investment in the last year or two it seems likely that the commitment this time around is much greater and hopefully we'll see continuous growth and improvement for the game in the Rainbow Nation.