The Swedish Elks will make their International Cup debut this year, after an eventful past few years saw them explode from one club in Helsingborg to regular footy being played in over a dozen cities across the country.
The Elks won last year's EU Cup and have a fierce rivalry with Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Finland. Now they want to take on the world's best and prove they are the real deal.
Coaching the Elks in Melbourne and Warrnambool will be Cameron Crooks, a native Melburnian who played club footy for Tullamarine and played elite junior footy alongside a number of current AFL champions.
It's a standard tournament format and makes for a good system, but does have two major drawbacks. It pits some of the world's least developed football nations against the very best (outside of Australia). And assuming the form hasn't changed markedly since 2005, it's unlikely that the first three rounds will see any blockbuster matches between the top teams - in fact there will be some awfully large losses dished out.
Based on expected form, it looks like a fairly clear run for the big four from 2005, i.e. New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the United States and Ireland. The toughest semi-final position to win may well be in Pool C, where the Stars and Stripes of the US Revolution will have to contend with the rising stars from South Africa. If they have improved the Africans may challenge the Americans, but if not the Danes may even give the South African Lions a run for their money. Other likely pivotal matches include Round 2's Samoa versus Japan, and Nauru versus Great Britain.
The Australian Football League has released the much anticipated draw for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup. The AFL had felt a two division format was most likely (effectively separated between elite and developing nations), with anywhere between 12 and 18 teams on the cards. But with the final number of teams coming in at 16, and most of them wishing to play in the main draw, a late decision was made to merge them into one division. This gives the tournament a very fair structure, with 4 pools of 4 teams, each side playing the others within their pool once, with the top team in each going through to the main semi-finals (and similarly lower finishing teams playing off against each other).
The previously alluded to Multicultural section outside the main draw has also been released, with "Team Africa" representing Melbourne's recent African immigrants and playing three matches, against each of South Africa (as a practice game for them), Tonga (unable to commit to the full draw) and "Team Asia".
All the rounds, times and venues are listed below.
Leader News has published a story which profiles young Sudanese ruckman Luak Bol, one of a number of other multicultural players in the new Murrumbeena Colts in Melbourne's Southern Football League Under 18s league.
Australia consistently ranks in the top four medal winning nations in the Olympics, something proudly celebrated by most Aussies. But has the time come for Australia to willingly accept a slide down the Olympic ladder? I think the answer should be yes. And it's intimately related to the health of Australians and the untapped potential of Australian Football.
Widely adored Sesame Street character Elmo recently met his match - the one AFL player who seems to be happier than the energetic little red... whatever Elmo is.
It's not often the AFL crosses paths with such a truly global megastar - check out Elmo and the ever-smiling Western Bulldogs' Brad Johnson on the AFL Bigpond site (for those that don't struggle with Bigpond; certainly Internet Explorer is recommended for the site).
The Samoan Kangaroos are one of nine teams that will contest their third International Cup in 2008, although at the past two cups they were known as the Bulldogs. Adopting the Kangaroo was deemed to fit nicely with North Melbourne supporting them at the tournament, and going forward as something distinctly marketable as Australian within Samoa. Previously the Samoans have finished seventh (2002) and fifth (2005). With no senior competition currently in place the Samoans enter the IC08 as somewhat of a wildcard. At the 2005 tournament for example, they initially easily accounted for the eighth-finishing British side (70 point victory) and yet nearly dropped a match against the ninth-place Canada (4 point victory).
The final list of nations competing for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup has been finalised. Here they are:
Papua New Guinea
Israel/Palestine Peace Team (debut)
Tonga was unable to make the final commitment due to issues such as player availability for the full duration of the tournament; we hope to have a chat to TAFA staff later. They are however expected to make an appearance outside the main draw as well as there being some practice matches for a few of the main combatants and teams representing some of Melbourne's ethnic communities.
The West London Wildcats have taken out the 2008 Brit Cup, Britain's annual locals-only tournament. The Cats have won their share of Brit Cups before, taking five of the past six, but the real talking point of the day was the dominant debut of the ARUK Southern Redbacks, drawn from players across the ARUK's 9-a-side southern league.
After a close 5 point loss to the Wildcats in their first match, the Redbacks lifted with strong wins against Wandsworth, the Swans and Putney to make the final.
Led by best on ground Donny Mullen, the Wildcats were too strong in the final, with 16-year-old George Merrick doing a superb job in the ruck. Merrick is part of the junior Great Britain Bulldogs squad that will play 3 matches in Australia during the AFL International Cup. Joining Merrick with the Wildcats in the final were Ollie Ash (also a junior Bulldog) and Paul Avery (coach of the junior Bulldogs).
The Cup featured eight sides, with four from London (West London, Wandsworth, the Swans and Putney), three from regional England, (Reading, the Southern Redbacks and Nottingham) and the Wales Red Devils.
Next Sunday July 20th will see the grand final of the inaugural London under-16s league, with the game being held at Clapham Common. This year will also see the first appearance of the junior Bulldogs down under, with games planned against school sides from Geelong and Warrnambool so far. The Junior Bulldogs squad was named recently, available at AFLBritain.com.
There has been an unprecedented amount of activity by AFL clubs in regards to Ireland and young Irish players in recent weeks. While Ricky Nixon has been in Ireland, meeting with the GAA and setting up his recruiting program, Gerard Sholly has been upsetting many in the GAA for using their facility at Kingspan Breffni Park to try out a few young potential recruits for the Carlton Blues and the Brisbane Lions are looking to add to their Irish stable. Also making moves are the Adelaide Crows, with two youngsters heading down for a trial in August.
Much noise has been made about the AFL's plans to launch new clubs on the Gold Coast and Western Sydney, with it looking increasingly likely that the two new teams will be playing within just three or four years.
The new clubs will see significant concessions regarding creating their player lists, particularly regarding local NSW and Queensland talent, but a new concept has surfaced recently - connected to building a club around the increasing number of young Irishmen coming down under.
Melbourne's The Age newspaper reported today that the AFL is considering launching an Irish-dominated West Sydney side, based on a proposal first put to Andrew Demetriou in 2006 by Gaelic Players Association executive Donal O'Neill.
Demetriou yesterday confirmed the meeting with O'Neill, who reportedly put forward a detailed business plan involving millions of dollars in funding emanating from the US and Britain as well as Ireland, and increased television coverage in Britain and Ireland. The "Sydney Celtics" could also potentially tie into the international brand power of the NBA's Boston Celtics and the Scottish soccer club Glasgow Celtics.
The AFL chief was however somewhat reserved in his public response, saying "To call this embryonic is an understatement. We are looking at several proposals and we have been forwarded all sorts of ideas."