Half way through the AFL off-season and fans are now counting down to the 2019 season. Media is reporting on how teams have recovered from their breaks. Injury lists are being finalised to get players back for Round One. New recruits are being paraded on the training tracks in their new colours and teams are bringing them into their revised game plans – or building game plans around them.
It is an exciting time, but the best part is that supporters of 18 teams know that there is a new dawn arriving with – potentially – greatness around the corner. A premiership this year might be the start of something greater – a dynasty, perhaps.
The following is a purely personal point of view about which clubs might be on the cusp of something great. By great I am referring to sustained success. Hawthorn claimed three flags from four grand finals between 2012 and 2015. Before that, Geelong took three flags from 2007 to 2011 from four grand finals. Sydney and West Coast dominated 2005/6 and the Brisbane Lions also had four grand finals for three flags between 2001 and 2004.
Round 12 was played in the NTFL last weekend, the first round back after the Christmas/New Year break. Whilst fans were delighted to see the footy back again, the round has seen a tightening of ladder positions with top spot, top five and wooden spoon well and truly undecided and set for big finishes from all clubs over the remaining six rounds.
The Southern Districts Crocs are locked in a battle with the Nightcliff Tigers for top spot, both teams on ten wins. In third place, four games behind the leaders, the Darwin Buffaloes sit level with Waratah. Just outside the five on five wins are Palmerston, followed by the Tiwi Bombers on four wins and Wanderers on three.
On Saturday, the Tigers downed the Buffaloes by 14 points. The teams kept up a tight match to three-quarter time, with the final quarter set for one of the other side to break the game open. However, neither team goaled in the last quarter leaving the Tigers victors.
The AFL's All Australian team was announced back in September this year. State of Origin football is in a long hiatus - but theoretical State teams are announced each year - a number of media outlets still name theoretical state teams. They generally take in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia as well as an Allies team (NT, Tasmania, ACT, Queensland and NSW).
But what about the rest of the worldω If the Rest of the World were to play against any of the teams above, what is the best team they could musterω We have determined eligibility for our theoretical world selection along the line of the International Cup eligibility rules and we have named the 2018 World Team (so this does not include foreign born but Australian raised players).
This year we have again named Irishman Zach Tuohy as captain of the team after another sucessful year at Geelong where he was a key part of the Cat's defence and featuring in finals footy.
As with the International Cup the coach can be Australian but should have a strong link with international football. This year we have again selected David Lake the coach of the PNG Mosquitoes and assistant coach of the Brisbane Lions AFLW team. Lake led the Mozzies to their second consecutive International Cup title in 2017.
The work and passion of Mohammed Hashem and his Auskick in Egypt initiative was at risk of falling away. But the Australian Embassy in Cairo stepped in and suddenly there are Australian Rules footys in Egypt. Mo Hash’s dream can now continue. Following is his account of what it has taken to grow the game in a part of the world that previously seemed worlds away from the Aussie Rules heartlands.
“Auskick in Egypt was an initiative started by myself at three distinct attractive sports facilities in Cairo and one out of Cairo in New Valley Governorate. The idea was to give children aged 5-12 the opportunity to learn about Australian culture through playing AFL. We have not charged any of the participants for any of the programs.”
Things were challenging early on for Auskick in Egypt, as Mo explained. “I was only using grid iron balls and whatever else I could find in the sports facilities. We used a combination of witches hats, soccer balls and the mentioned grid iron balls where possible.”
Richmond star Bachar Houli has been joined by Essendon speedster Adam Saad and former Saint, Ahmed Saad, to lead a group of Muslim boys on a football and cultural journey to the United Arab Emirates – home of the AFL Middle East – as part of the Bachar Houli Academy initiative to develop youth.
The travelling party were based in the capital city of Abu Dhabi, enjoying training sessions, some sightseeing and cultural experiences amid the overall objectives of developing youth through a leadership course.
Houli has long been working with Muslim youth with his academy back in Australia, but Adam Saad, the Essendon speedster, happily donated his own time to be a part of the trip to the UAE. Former St Kilda footballer, Ahmed Saad, was also there and has been instrumental recently in getting football gear to Auskick clinics in Egypt in his role within the AFL Diversity Unit.
The following article by Kevin O’Brien from the Irish sporting website, The 42, looks closely at the journey of Derry’s Gaelic star of the 80’s and 90’s, Dermot McNicholl. His time at the St Kilda football club in the VFL gives great insight to the early days of the movement to recruit Irish talent to the VFL/AFL system.
Following is an excerpt from the original story.
'Our pre-seasons were brutal. I’ve never gone through anything like it in my life'
Derry legend Dermot McNicholl discusses his stint in the AFL, the Oak Leafers’ All-Ireland victory 25 years ago and the rise in GAA stars heading Down Under.
“And St Kilda joined the international recruiting race, taking a punt on Dermot McNicholl, who has been brought to Australia by VFA club Prahran…St Kilda will bide its time with McNicholl, recognised as the best player in Gaelic football…St Kilda targeted McNicholl because of his pace and toughness and believes he could become a highly skilled player.”
The new AFL Switzerland competition was only completed back in November, but already the Basel Dragons have galloped headlong into 2019 with a new playing strip ready to go. Footy in Switzerland has seen a massive regeneration, heavily driven by the Winterthur Lions, and culminating in November’s first intra-national Swiss tournament.
Whilst the Geneva Jets won the event, it is the Basel Dragons working to ensure that 2019 is bigger, better and more successful for them.
Colombia’s Bogota Bulldogs have used Christmas Day wisely to announce another huge initiative in South American footy. Their gift is the announcement of the inaugural battle of the Bulldogs when the USAFL’s Denver Bulldogs from Colorado will travel to Bogota next year.
The scheduled match on May 18th will see the Bogota Bulldogs host the Denver Bulldogs in a genuine battle of the Americas. The Bogota team, and the greater Colombia AFL, have grown quickly over the past couple of years from a “kick in the park” entity to a three team national Colombian competition that is now attracting international teams.
The match will feature a full size competition – 18 per team – in an event that is quoted as a game that “will raise the quality of South American footy forever”.
The young girl positioned herself behind the goalposts as usual. She did this at every training session to watch her brothers. On the field the coach barked orders and the players continued another set of sprints, sweat pouring from their brows, but knowing this was the last training session before the Christmas break.
Hannah watched the players. She watched them complete their handpassing drills every training night. She watched the kicking drills. She watched the tackling, the marking, everything. Tonight a tear ran down her cheek when she wished that maybe Santa might one day grant her the chance to play her favourite game. Maybe this Christmas?
As she sat watching, her cheeks still red from her gentle weeping, the coach turned around and faced her. Hannah was unsure why or what had happened. Maybe something was going on behind her. But the coach started motioning for her to come out onto the field.
In a massive coup for AFL Middle East, the AFL club Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWS) have agreed to work together to help develop the Middle East’s competition. The following statement from AFL Middle East Operations manager, James Larkin, details the arrangement.
Statement GWS Giants Relationship
Introduction: On the morning of December 21st, the AFL Middle East (AFLME) announced it had come to an arrangement whereby it would develop a relationship with the AFL club – Greater Western Sydney Giants. This relationship was sought as a means to help expand Australian Football in the greater Middle East region at all levels including Auskick.
Just a few weeks ago, the Tiwi Bombers were on the crest of a wave. With three consecutive wins, the Bombers were cautiously looking at a surprise finals charge. But since then they have lost three games in a row, last weekend against the bottom placed Wanderers. The Bombers now face the prospect again of a wooden spoon unless they find form again. Wanderers, however, have won two of their past four matches and can justifiably claim their own march to finals.
In other matches on the weekend, the Darwin Buffaloes brought down the Southern Districts Crocs, Nightcliff comfortably dispatched St Mary’s and the Palmerston Magpies won a thriller after the siren against Waratah.
Wanderers seemingly threw away their golden chance to defeat the Bombers when they kicked just one goal from seven scoring shots in the opening quarter. They we made to pay, as the Bombers kicked five second quarter goals to lead at the main break. But the Muk Muks really did run amok in the second half. Wanderers hammered home ten goals in the second half to just four from the Bombers to win comfortably by 32 points.
Lost in the shuffle of Majak Daw’s recent injuries when falling from Melbourne’s Bolte Bridge is his impact on the game of Australian Rules football. Whilst there is some polarisation of people’s reaction to Daw’s latest misfortune – from sympathy to, sadly, discriminatory – Daw’s contribution to opportunity for young immigrants is profound.
Rohan Smith’s article at www.news.com.au sheds great light on his journey and achievements within the context of how hard daw has had to work through his life to achieve at all.
Majak Daw has survived it all, and continues to hang tough. It’s not just a tribute to his strength — it’s a result of where he’s come from.
When Majak Daw speaks, you’d never know English is his second language. He’s got the Australian twang.
When he kicks a footy, you’d never know he grew up a world away where the luxury of recreational sport isn’t afforded to kids like it is here.