In the West, the Middle East is never far from front page news. Unfortunately, in the world of Aussie Rules, it has been quite the contrary. There have been attempts to set up competitions in Lebanon, Israel and Turkey, but ultimately, they either haven't yet come to fruition, or they are on hiatus. Furthermore, the recent tension in the area is unlikely to have done a great deal to help proceedings. Yet almost unnoticed, the United Arab Emirates, renowned for its rapid city construction levels and more tolerant way of life (at least from a Western perspective), has produced a team in the city of Dubai.
The footy scene in France is hoping to soon affiliate with the polysports association Leo Lagrange in an effort to improve the profile of Australian Rules football and give itself a channel to receiving funding through government channels.
The move comes as the French footy clubs debate the best way forward for the sport in France, with Strasbourg pulling out of the AFLG after a tough first year and options for regional leagues in and around France up for discussion.
Mal Michael, Papua New Guinea's most celebrated AFL footballer retired last month, but the effects on footy in PNG are yet to be known. Early signs are that he will spread his time between Melbourne and his country of birth.
Australian punter Ben Graham has continued his excellent form for the New York Jets in the NFL, averaging 44.3 yards, slightly above the league average - a top result in his first full season. A longest kick of 69 yards is another impressive result. Two more long kicks weren't counted in his stats due to team penalties.
The 2006 Canadian footy season was marked by progress in some areas and setbacks in others. Two clubs, with players from five sides competed at the US Nationals. Several clubs had difficulty fielding a side, others folded, but there was some expansion with at least two full clubs starting play next year. However, this still leaves AFL Canada with fewer sides than at the end of last year.
Since the end of last year, footy in Finland has seen the Finland Lions make two trips to Prague, play a three-game series against the Stockholm Dynamite and hold a match Finland vs The World, with an all-Finnish team taking on Irish and Aussies from the Finnish footy scene and only going down by twenty points.
Now the crew are putting together plans for a local league featuring teams from Helsinki, Espoo, Turku and possibly Vantaa (all fairly close together on Finland's southern coast), with the goal of having enough Finns playing regularly in the league to push for a Finnish team (tentatively nicknamed the "Ice Breakers") at the 2008 International Cup.
The first International Rules Masters (players over 35 years of age) test was played on October 28th this year at the GAA club in Annaghdown, Galway, Ireland. There was both an A and B squad match, with Ireland winning both games.
The Fitzroy Reds are a strong community football club in Melbourne, playing in the Victorian Amateur Football Association. Originally the third club from Melbourne University, the Reds took on the Fitzroy name after the AFL's Lions moved to Brisbane and now play their matches at Fitzroy's Brunswick St oval, ancestral home of the VFL/AFL Lions.
The Reds have also developed a few international links recently, having some players represent the Melbourne Croats in the Multicultural Cup, a sister-club arrangement with the Atlanta Kookaburras and last October playing a tour match in Tonga against the Tongan national team, the Black Marlins. Although the Reds ran out winners in the game, the locals were far from disgraced, showing great potential in a developing footy nation.
For the first time ever, an Australian women's team have followed the footsteps of the men's Australian International Rules team, setting out to do what the men have since 1998,
test their wares against the Irish Gaelic footballers. The team has just completed a tour of Ireland, with very one sided results in favour of the home side resulting in Ireland taking the inaugural series easily - though not surprisingly given a critical rule difference compared with the men's series.
The second International Rules Test of 2006 has highlighted problems with the series like no other match between the two proud sporting nations. The rancor expressed by both sides has been unprecedented, and it is difficult to reconcile that respected voices from both camps, and indeed their supporters, can view the same incidents with such extremely opposing views.
Recently a group of current and ex-AFL footballers were led around northern Vietnam on a CARE Challenge, visiting CARE projects and meeting local HIV/AIDS sufferers. The culmination of the trip also saw a footy match played between the CARE AFL All Stars and the Hanoi Swans.
The 2006 International Rules Series in Ireland saw Australia retain the Cormac McAnallen Cup, coming from an eight point deficit to win on aggregate in a series embroiled with plenty of controversy, leading to widespread speculation that the annual matches will be scrapped.