The Australian Rules Football League of Ireland's preparations for the International Cup are in full swing, with the Green Machine taking the unorthodox step of announcing that they are aiming to field a team consisting of only around 50% players from the Irish domestic league.
The remaining fifteen in the squad of thirty are to be selected from Irish expats currently playing footy in Australia, a move which ARFLI President Ciaran O'Hara says reflects both their belief that the Warriors should contain the best Irishmen playing Australian Football wherever they are, and also the fact that a number of former ARFLI players are now playing Down Under, particularly since last year's financial crisis saw a large number of Irishmen emigrate.
With a large dose of Australian suburban and country footy experience, the Irish could be very tough to beat at the IC11, although O'Hara is expecting old rivals such as PNG, New Zealand, South Africa and Nauru to have stepped up in standard since 2008.
The 2011 International Cup will be the first to feature a women's division, with the USA, Ireland, Canada, PNG and Italy among those who have expressed an intereste to head to Australia.
Despite being relative newcomers to the international footy scene, the AFL Italia are planning to send both a men's and women's squad Down Under, after their women's side faced off against Ireland in Europe's first-ever international women's match last October.
Peta Lowry from the AFL Italia spoke to WFN about the Italian national women's team and their preparations.
US Revolution Head Coach, Matt Bishop, is excited and nervous about the big year ahead, with his team heading to the International Cup in Sydney and Melbourne in August. "The anticipation and anxiety levels have certainly shot up since the clock ticked into 2011. While there are many projects to be completed before the International Cup part of me wishes it was here already!"
First on the agenda for the team is a training camp in Austin Texas at the end of February. "The Revolution training squad has been reduced to 37 players and our main goal over the next six weeks is to reduce this to the 28 that will be travelling to Australia in August. Once we have selected the squad we will be monitoring the progress of the players through testing very similar to that used at the AFL Draft Combines. I believe that, in the future, the AFL will utilize the testing protocols they have developed to screen potential international talent and they have already given that indication with World XVIII applicants required to complete aspects of the testing.
A two division structure was implemented in 2009, to help Stuttgart ease into the league, allow Berlin a season to rebuild, and give the reserve teams from power clubs Rheinland and Munich somewhere to play. This hasn't been repeated since, with clubs instead starting to move towards the "metro league" model of concentrating on 9-a-side local footy between the national league fixtures.
Germany's first 9-a-side metro league was founded by the Munich Roos last year, with the squad divided into three teams and over 50 players playing a match in the Bayernliga over the course of the 2010 season. This year, the Rheinland Lions and Berlin Crocodiles are looking at starting their own metro competitions.
David Mudge from the Roos says "the Bayernliga was a huge success last year, generating a pile of new recruits to the sport. We thought about expanding to four teams but in the end will keep it to the established three, with the exception that if Nürnberg get a team together, or even half a dozen guys, they have a standing invitation to participate as the fourth team."
While the title suggests a story about expats, the story in the video below focuses as much on Americans playing the game in the US and the AFL's desire to recruit American athletes to the AFL. Featuring interviews with Dave Matthews, Tony Woods, Robert Dipierdomenico, Jon Loring, Cameron Pinnock and Ojas Desai among others with footage of USAFL matches.
The AFL Britain have a new committee coordinating the regional English clubs north of London, with Karl Haigh from the Huddersfield Rams recently appointed president of the newly-formed AFL Britain North.
This committee includes all clubs from both the Central & North West and North East leagues, after the 2010 season saw the North East league struggle for numbers and come close to collapsing. New secretary of the AFL Britain North is Great Britain Bulldogs and England Dragonslayers rep Alistair Dellooze.
2011 will be a big year for English footy, with not only preparations for the Bulldogs' International Cup campaign, but also the European Legion vs AFL/AIS match in London, and the first London vs Country match scheduled to be held in Worksop.
Two IC11 matches will be staged as curtain raiser to AFL matches.
As per previous International Cups, the Grand Final will be played at the MCG, on Saturday the 27th of August prior to the Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn match.
There will also be a match before the Sydney v St Kilda game on Sunday the 21st of August at ANZ Stadium, Sydney - the two competing teams will be assigned once the final draw is done. It's likely to feature two of the top sides to showcase the increasing standard of international Aussie Rules.
The Australian Football League has also scheduled a lunch for the captains of the competing nations to be hosted by AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou. The lunch will be held in Melbourne on Thursday the 25th of August, 2011.