2007 has been a year of anniversaries in international footy. The sport has unquestionably put down some solid roots in a number of countries, whereas a decade or two past, plenty of leagues were only the loss of one or two key people away from disappearing.
The USAFL has celebrated its 10th anniversary, including a celebration at the Nationals in Kentucky which saw the naming of their team of the first decade. Their Ten Year Commemorative Book is available here.
The Japan AFL has brought up their 20th year in the game.
In September AFL South Africa (formerly Footy South Africa) joined the milestone group, also bringing up 10 years since development began in the North West Province. According to AFL South Africa North West Provincial Manager July Machethe, "It was at this month back in 1997 that AFL was introduced to the North West community and since then the game has developed and produced immeasurable results. We’ve experienced AFL South Africa and AFL North West teams participating in the two editions of the International Cup in 2002 and 2005, The Jim Stynes Cup (now Ron Barassi Youth Tournament) in 1997 and 2006 with the under 16 kids participating. We also have experienced a great cultural exchange, skills and love of “Our Game” between Australians and South Africans since the introduction of the game back in 1997".
"A lot has happened and more big things to come… I should mention the great support and courage to take the game to the next level by the AFL body (in Australia) without them it will have been impossible for us to reach this stage. Them bringing in the Fremantle Football Club to the North West is a great boost and we are going to do well together with the Dockers! Words of Appreciation also goes to the North West Department of Sports Arts & Culture!!!".
Back in 2004, a group of Solomon Islanders and Australian defence personnel formed the Solomon Islands Australian Football Association with the hope of forming a stable, organised league in the country. However, after some promising initial clinics and scratch matches, the organisation went into hiatus.
Three years later and the game is back on with a memorial match held in Honiara last Saturday. Two sides, mainly formed of local Islanders with a few Australian army personnel thrown in, took the field decked out in Eagles and Bombers gear, with the Bombers holding on to win the Clark-Dunning trophy in a very tight tussle.
With the Geckos proving too good for a depleted Wombats team, the Cats decided to get into the action with an exhibition of their skills during half-time and after the game. Lifelong Geelong supporter and Geckos' veteran Dave 'Buffet' Eagles said that it was a once in a lifetime chance to have a kick with his heroes. "It was fantastic, something like the equivalent of having a hit of tennis with Roger Federer. It was great to have a kick with the current best Aussie rule team in the world".
Geckos' President Dan Brooks said that having an AFL team tour Bali as their end of season trip, something not seen since before the 2002 bombing, was a great thing for the Geckos and for Bali in general.
The Geckos are now preparing to host the 2008 Bali 9s Masters, to be held June 7. For more information on the event, visit www.BaliNines.com, while more information on the club can be found at www.BaliGeckos.com.
The Kokoda Track in PNG is certainly getting a work-over from many with AFL connections. Following on from many recent forays, including a trip just lately from ex Fremantle Dockers and Adelaide Crows high flyer Tony Modra (as part of a McGuiness-McDermott Foundation trip), the Hawthorn Football Club will once again tackle the track. They will take their latest batch of recruits, and those unavailable when the Hawthorn last walked the track at the end of 2004, on the trip.
The Melbourne Football Club's tour of China is revealing that initial investment in Australian Football in Asia's giant is already bearing fruit. In the past there have been occasional visits by AFL clubs to international destinations with one-off clinics they may not leave a lasting legacy. So it must have been a delight for the Demons to find school children in Suzhou already well-versed in the skills of Aussie Rules. Details of the club's trip are being regularly updated on their website as the Melbourne dalliance with new markets begins in earnest.
Mustafa İlhan, known as John Ilhan, the founder of mobile phone retailer "Crazy John's", died this week in Melbourne. The flamboyant Ilhan was a very popular figure with migrants and footy fans alike and respected by many around Australia.
John was an Australian "rags to riches" story, a Muslim who migrated from Turkey to Australia. From working class Broadmeadows, he opened his first store in 1991 and in just 10 years he had built up one of Australia's biggest retail chains. In 2003, he topped the Australian Young Rich list, becoming Australia's richest man 40 years or younger. His personal fortune was estimated to be worth over AUD$300 million. His success came largely from his business innovation, his larger than life personality and his hands on approach to business. John became a role model for many Australian muslims and migrants.
Eccentric expat Australian Myk Aussie is a regular at Aussie Rules events across Canada and the United States. He recently caught up with football legend Kevin Sheedy at the 2007 US Nationals in Louisville. Myk's excellent interview ranged from the way the game has changed, Aussie Rules in North America, learning from other sports, Aboriginal players, the great Essendon premiership sides of the past and even horse racing.
Myk's site is MYKwebTV and also contains other footy footage from Canada and the US. The Sheedy interview is here.
The trickle of Irish players into the Australian Football League is set to become a flood in 2008. Carlton may be about to take the recruiting experiment to a new level, and what had been a curiosity could now become a major phenomenon, set to shape the on-field destinies of some clubs and possibly even bring on the possibility of true international Australian Football competition for Australia.
Victoria is home to 5 million people and ten of the sixteen teams in Australia's elite football league, the AFL. A year ago I wrote a controversial article challenging the AFL to make some tough decisions and truly nationalise the league whilst ensuring football remains at the forefront of Victoria's sporting scene. I believed that reducing the number of Melbourne clubs would be the key to improved performances from the city's remaining clubs and would mean new clubs in unrepresented parts of Australia. This article looks at the relevance of my arguments a year on, following much improved results by Victorian clubs. It also looks in depth at the underperforming VFL (Victoria's prominent state league) and possible measures to lift the league to the status it could enjoy.
1 Denver Bulldogs (9-1) (10 #1 Votes)
2 San Diego Lions (9-1)
3 BW Eagles (7-1)
4 NY Magpies (6-2)
5 Golden Gate Roos (2-3)
6 OC Bombers (2-6)
7 Minnesota Freeze (7-1)
8 Boston Demons (2-5)
9 Seattle Grizzlies (6-1)
10 Chicago United (5-4)
Also receiving votes Atlanta Kookaburras (6-3).
The Denver Bulldogs finished the 2007 season taking out the John Harrell Perpetual Cup (the USFooty National Championship) and the Number 1 position in the World Footy News USFooty Top 10 Poll. It was the Bulldogs 6th championship in 8 years, making them the dominant team of USFooty’s first decade. The win by just 6 points over the 2006 Champions, the San Diego Lions, shows the closeness of these two dominant teams over the last couple of years. Earlier in the season, San Diego beat Denver in Colorado by 9 points. Let’s hope that these two great clubs schedule a full-length game in 2008.
The Baltimore-Washington Eagles finished an impressive season with third in the Poll. The Eagles finished second in pool play at Nationals after losing to the eventual champions, the Denver Bulldogs. On the other side, the No. 4 New York Magpies finished second in pool play after losing to the San Diego Lions. The two teams finishing third in pool play, the Golden Gate Roos and the Orange County Bombers, finished No. 5 and No. 6 respectively. The other team that had a very impressive 2007 was the No. 7 Minnesota Freeze. Minnesota finished 2006 losing to the Baltimore Washington Eagles in the Division II Grand Final. In 2007 they improved to their No. 7 position with an impressive performance at Nationals including a hard fought win over the No. 9 Seattle Grizzlies, taking out the Division II National Championship. The Boston Demons and Chicago United both had a disappointing tournament finishing fourth in pool play but staying in the top 10 with position No. 8 and No. 10 respectively.
It was a great 2007 season. Congratulations to all teams and thanks to the Pollsters!
Swedish footy has seen big growth in the past few years, with new clubs springing up outside the traditional hot spots of Stockholm and Scania and the Swedish Elks improving strongly onfield - taking out this year's EU Cup.
However, the creation of a central governing body has proven elusive until now - partly due to the distances between clubs and leagues. A meeting held recently has seen the formation of the Svenska Australiensiska FotbollsLiga, with a seven-member committee - composed entirely of Swedes - drawn from all leagues and clubs in Sweden.