After their 100 point loss to the Australian Boomerangs side, South Africa's developmental team headed down to Kwa Zulu Natal province to pick up some more talented locals ready for Game 2 in Kwa Mashu, near Durban, on Wednesday 6th February. We'll have a report on that match as soon as possible.
Next up is the third and final match, again to feature a large contribution of locals, this time in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, in the Western province. Local development officers have been talking up the event to get the community involved, advertising the match as the first ever international Australian Football game to be held in Cape Town. Details are:
Khayelitsha Cricket Oval (Town 2, behind Law Courts), Saturday 9th February
Performances by the Kwaito Group "All Blacks" and traditional dance group "Imduyekezo Mat", music by DJ D Lo, competitions, prizes and giveaways.
12pm Curtain raiser - Nyanga vs Khayelitsha under 13s
2pm Main game - South Africa vs Australia (Indigenous Youth Team)
4pm Speeches and medal presentation
6pm Post-match function at Mzoli’s, Guguletu
Just a quick reminder that last Saturday's AFL pre-season match between Carlton and Fremantle in Pretoria will be telecast in Australia on Foxtel. Fox Sports 3 will show the match on Wednesday 6th February at 10 PM AEST (immediately after the soccer) and Thursday 7th February at 10 AM AEST.
Former Richmond and Essendon great Kevin Sheedy has called for future AFL seasons to commence with Round 1 played outside of Australia. He made the comment at the AFL Coaching Conference on the Gold Coast, Queensland. As strong an advocate for international footy as worldfootynews.com is, even we might hesitate to seriously suggest such a dramatic change due to the risk of alienating supporters in Australia.
There's little doubt that such a move would be highly unpopular if it were to occur in the next few years. However staging a lot more NAB Cup games in other countries would provide a good balance, plus consideration given to occasional home-and-away matches outside of Australia, such as during the mid-season split round. Sheedy has always been controversial and this new call fits the same mold. But the international development of Aussie Rules is a journey that will be so much faster if the AFL clubs and fans are willing partners, and it seems like the AFL's official ambassador for the 150 years of Australian Football will not get his way on this one any time soon.
In another small but promising step for the promotion of this year's International Cup, Andrew Sawitsch (working for the Melbourne Demons and Melbourne City Council) has released a Chinese language flyer for the tournament, based on one produced by the AFL. So where does Sawitsch see it being used? "We'll use it for our players, supporters and government groups over here (in China) to give them a bit of background on the tournament. Melbourne Football Club and (the) AFL Multicultural Department can hopefully circulate it around as well from now until August". One would hope to at least see them around Chinatown in Melbourne.
Hopefully a poster campaign around Melbourne will be included in the event promotion, as they seem to be quite effective at raising interest. If the AFL doesn't put out such posters, maybe international footy fans in Victoria will take up the task themselves?
Sawitsch has recently returned to Australia to attend the AFL coaching conference on the Gold Coast, where he told media about two Chinese players that will join the Melbourne Demons for their Community Camp in Canberra.
"The two guys I’m bringing out to Melbourne – one is a child prodigy in martial arts but there really isn’t a career in that, and the other is soccer goalkeeper, where there aren’t that many opportunities in China unless you are really good," Sawitsch said.
Not surprisingly the talented Australian indigenous under 16s team has given the South African development side a football lesson in the curtain raiser to the Carlton-Fremantle AFL match in Pretoria. The Aboriginal side contains some of the best young players in Australia and raced away with the match, finishing up 100 point winners. It was pleasing to read that the home side had the support of an enthusiastic crowd - giving the locals someone to barrack for is an aspect of getting people involved in sport that should never be overlooked.
The result demonstrates that patience will be needed with the South African program. For all the good news stories we're seeing, and thousands of children involved in Auskick's equivalent, FootyWild, it will take a few years for the cream of those young players to become skilled at Australian Football and make their way into AFLSA's national sides.
North West province is the only region with sustained development over several years and the bulk of the Buffaloes sides have come from there. With AFLSA keen to spread the game further, and some of the best prospects from the recent talent camp being included in their youth squad, it's actually conceivable that this year's side may have more "athletes with potential" but less experienced footballers. So the results of this year's 3 match series should be regarded as a baseline from which to judge future matches. Having said that, in the next two games South Africa will feature even more raw young recruits from other provinces.
AFL Indigenous Youth Team: 5.3 10.4 14.6 19.9 (123)
South African Buffaloes development squad: 0.3 1.7 2.10 2.11 (23)
After trailing early, Fremantle rallied to defeat Carlton in the ARTH AFL Challenge at SuperSport Park in Pretoria. Sadly the game was marred by an injury to Kepler Bradley resulting in an ambulance coming onto the field. It ultimately proved to be a simple concussion, but given the match was an exhibition to promote the sport in front of thousands of children and their parents, it was a terribly unfortunate incident. We can only hope it didn't dissuade too many spectators from wanting their kids to play the game. Bradley returned to the ground later in the match, so hopefully this was noted by the crowd.
Overall the night seems to have been successful, with an official crowd of 5222, both clubs getting a solid workout, and the Australian indigenous team not unexpectedly too strong for the locals in the curtain raiser. The match also saw Carlton's new Irish recruit, Michael Shields, play his first AFL game.
With AFL clubs in South Africa and Dubai, Australian reporters have followed the teams overseas, so we're seeing a steady stream of stories about what the clubs are doing in South Africa and AFL development there, as well as occasional articles related to the Dubai match. A lot of the stories focus on the under-privileged situation many of the Africans find themselves in, and the hopefully humbling experience for the Australians. But it's pleasing to see there are purely football messages coming through too, such as Fremantle coach Mark Harvey's call for the AFL to provide a system for South African players to make it to the big time. Possibly he's unaware of the current International Scholarship scheme - maybe when Harvey finds out he might want to sign up one or two prospects. Here's just some of the stories, including a link to a TV report.
Besides going live into South Africa on cable channel SuperSport, Saturday's AFL pre-season match between Carlton and Fremantle in Pretoria will be telecast in Australia on Foxtel later in the week. Fox Sports 3 will show the match on Wednesday 6th February at 10 PM AEST and Thursday 7th February at 10 AM AEST, but confirm closer to the date. It's being billed as an AFL Exhibition match.
With the NAB Cup widely regarded as needing changes to excite public interest in Australia (crowds are generally much smaller than the main season), let's hope next year we see an official NAB Cup game in South Africa televised live into Australia. With West Coast and Fremantle both involved in that country, better placed geographically in terms of flight times, and normally drawn to play each other in their NAB Cup openers, it seems the obvious choice to start the 2009 pre-season competition.
At the moment, at least in Melbourne and Perth, a daily stream of news stories around the AFL's international projects is beginning to fill the pre-season void. There is no doubt that the current level of exposure is much more than ever before.
The stories mostly centre around the major pre-season matches in Dubai and South Africa which are starting to capture the imagination of the Australian public. Also in the news are the Irish recruits and Fremantle and Collingwood's pre-season camps in South Africa.
Here is a round up of some of the recent relevant articles over the last few days:
The Tokyo Goannas and AFL Japan have released a great video documentary titled "History of Australian Rules Football in Japan".
Some of the footage goes right back to the late 1980s and includes some news headlines for the "Tokyo Bowl" VFL exhibition matches as well as AFL figures including Paul Salmon.
The video documentary, which is over 15 minutes long is a chronology in two parts, with the first focusing on the early years and the debut of the Samurais at the Arafura games and the second including progress from 2000 with highlights from the Samurai's 2002 and 2005 International Cup campaigns as well as more recent highlights such as Michito Sakaki's much publicised trial at Essendon.
Click on the links below to view the video from YouTube:
The slow recognition in Australia of Australian Football overseas sometimes occurs through media stories in unexpected places.
The Age Saturday Careers supplement has run two recent pieces on expats in Finland (previously mentioned on WFN here) and in Denmark.
The Finland story featured a photo in football guernseys while the Denmark profile of Ian Hill on 26 January 2008 only briefly mentioned the DAFL but did say that Ian Hill is president of the league and gave its website.
Ian Hill remarks that ‘Weekends are much the same as home – footy, working around the house, visiting family and friends.’
Perhaps the only problem with such stories is that it is harder to get across the message that most players are locals; after all the primary focus is on work and life rather than football.
Expat stories can be sent to the Age at the email address of the journalist who writes up the stories paul.edwards at westnet.com.au