Charlie Hall found a nugget of gold in a creek near the site of a town that now bears his name in the Kimberley region of Western Australia’s far north. Further east, but still in the far north, Cairns became a port that would, in part, service the gold discoveries on the Hodgkinson River goldfields and later across the Tablelands. In both locations, gold discoveries led directly to their settlement and development.
By the 2010’s, a different kind of AFL gold is being discovered and sought by AFL clubs and this season’s national draft brought that notion clearly into focus as both locations provided clubs with yet more young talent.
By road, Cairns is around 3000 kilometres from the footballing Mecca of Melbourne. Halls Creek is even further away – about 4300 kilometres by road. Neither is in the backyard of Melbourne, nor any other state capital. Yet by way of recruiters, scouts, word of mouth and social media – word gets around about precociously talented kids. Many leave home for the cities to either further educations or improve their chances to play big time footy. It’s working.
It was just another day at the office for the Dubai Dragons. After four consecutive flags and victories over every team over those years, a trip down to Abu Dhabi did not hold any fear for the Dragons. All they had to do was play their normal way and win.
By half time, that was exactly the way things were. The Dragons scoring when they needed to and their defence keeping the Falcons goalless. By the main break, the Dragons had strolled to a 28-point lead and another by-the-numbers half would see them comfortably home.
But for any Marvel Studios Avengers fans, the Abu Dhabi Falcons were Bruce Banner. Something upset them at the break and they came out swinging – though not green – in the third quarter. They won the quarter, not by much, and said to the Dragons that pressure was the name of the game. Unrelenting pressure – the kind that wins matches.
It might only be Round Two, yet tomorrow’s matches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai could well shape the destiny of all four clubs. After two close matches in Round One, all four teams believe they can win – and all four teams need to.
The opening match in Abu Dhabi will see reigning premiers and first round winners, the Dubai Dragons, out to win a second match in a row and in the process try and secure top spot. Their title defence will be built around winning enough games to guarantee a grand final berth, and the sooner they stack the wins away the better. A loss is something that will be lurking in the back of their minds – a genuine possibility away from home – so they will be ready.
The first leg of the Rebel Shield in Cork was played out last Friday between Cork’s big two footy teams – the Leeside Lions and the UCC Bombers. The clash has been going now for a number of years and in the words of the Lions, “has provided some memorable contests over the years and it is sure to deliver once again.”
Cork, in southern Ireland, has become one of the more successful cities at growing successful teams – the Leeside Lions won back to back AFL Ireland premierships in 2016 and 2017. The UCC Bombers are the current holders of the Fitzpatrick Cup for universities. In fact, the Bombers have won the cup on three occasions in the men’s division (2013, 2017 and 2018) and also the women’s division in all three years of the women’s draw in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
There are serious bragging rights that go along with the event, and both teams give everything. The Leeside Lions stated that, “as promised, the 1st Leg of the Rebel Shield proved to be a close and exciting game.”
The rebranding and redeveloping of football in Toulouse has seen the former powerhouse, the Toulouse Hawks, initially sacrifice their results to help create the Blagnac Aviators. Then, as the Aviators passed into French footy history, the new two-team entity Stade Toulousain has grown in their place. The subsequent start of the new season for both Toulouse teams is cause for caution for all other French teams.
It is only early in the season, yet both Toulouse teams have recorded significant victories, suggesting that there is greater depth than ever before in Toulouse and both Stade Toulousain teams will be in the running for potential finals action next year.
Last weekend saw the inaugural AFL Switzerland tournament. It is the first time that an all-Swiss competition has been held and featured the established Winterthur Lions club as well as the two newly formed additions – the Basel Dragons and Geneva Jets.
As previously noted in an earlier story (see Swiss Sensations), the tournament was made possible through exciting growth in Switzerland. Basel, located in the north east almost at the border of Switzerland, France and Germany, have put together a team. Additionally, Geneva, in the south-east, have also gathered sufficient numbers to compete.
And compete they did. Over the three match round robin, each team played two games at Deutweg Stadium in Winterthur.
The NTFL deck was shuffled on the weekend with some upset results shaking up the competition. At least, the winners and losers were shuffled yet the ladder remains largely the same. Waratah brought down the previously undefeated Southern Districts Crocs, the Tiwi Bombers downed the Darwin Buffaloes, St Mary’s burst the Palmerston bubble and Nightcliff were too good for Wanderers.
Saturday’s triple-header at TIO Stadium kicked off with a revitalised Tiwi Bombers outclassing the Darwin Buffaloes. But it didn’t start that way as the Buffaloes burst out of the blocks with a seven goal to one opening quarter. Leading by 26 points at half-time, Darwin had little idea what was about the happen. The Tiwi Bombers called on the grit and explosiveness that saw them defeat St Mary’s last weekend to launch a nine goal third term. Another six goals in the last quarter saw the Bombers race away to an impressive 44-point win.
As reported on the www.afleurope.org website, Switzerland is set for its first official national tournament when the Winterthur Lions take on the newly created Swiss teams, the Basel Dragons and the Geneva Jets. In a relatively short time, Swiss footy has grown from one club to three, which is impressive growth of the game within a single European country by any standards.
After months of preparation and planning, this Sunday will see the first Swiss tournament take place between hosts the Winterthur Lions, and newly established clubs the Basel Dragons and Geneva Jets.
As a first for football in the nation, the 9-a-side tournament will act as the inaugural Australian Football competition in Switzerland, as the teams prepare for the first season of the Swiss League set to take place in 2019.
Here’s a new argument to get your collective and individual teeth in to.
Since 1987 when the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears entered the then VFL, interstate teams have reached the grand final many times. All but one of those games has been played at the MCG. Currently, fuelled further by Caroline Wilson’s recent comments on 3AW’s Sportsday program about the subject, Adelaide Crows coach Don Pyke and outgoing Sydney Swans Chief Executive Andrew Ireland are two strong voices pushing the idea.
It seems that the rationale is about fairness and removing “home” advantage for Victorian clubs, and by playing three grand finals for a best of three result this will be reduced. But the idea is fraught with inconsistencies. Not only that, but sheer statistics make a case against the idea. The clubs, AFL, sponsors and businesses would undoubtedly welcome three major events each year. Think of the money raised.
The latest initiative of AFL England, the National University League, commenced last weekend. The competition brings together the talent in men’s and women’s football across England and southern Wales and is running also as a prototype for a wider uptake across all of Europe.
Cambridge University held nominal favouritism going into the event for the men’s draw, as much to do with being the host team as anything else, whilst the women’s draw was a little less predictable given the comparative lack of competition in preceding years. The competition combined players from each university who had played for the team before as well as new faces, providing a great opportunity to further grow the game in universities.
Sarah Black reports on the www.afl.com.au website about the impact that Greater Western Sydney AFLW player, Cora Staunton, has had on the women’s game in terms of more Irish women chasing an AFLW dream.
The 2019 AFL Women's season will see five Irish born-and-bred players, including Staunton, on club lists.
It's a noticeable increase from the two in 2018, one of whom, expat and now-delisted Demon Laura Duryea, played her football in Melbourne before being drafted.
The four new recruits come from a Gaelic football background, with Sarah Rowe (Collingwood rookie), Ailish Considine (Adelaide rookie), Yvonne Bonner (GWS rookie) and Aisling McCarthy (Western Bulldogs' senior list), moving from across the world to play AFLW.
As a kid in the Aussie Rules playing states of Australia, from the first time you pick up a footy and kick it around the yard you are on the path to AFL football. From the youngest ages, Auskick programs, junior clubs, representative football, school football and later academies and combines create a path to the big time. The pathways are clear and ready.
Not so in Ireland. At least not as directly for Australian Football. The equivalent local pathways can take young Irish kids on a journey to club, county and country Gaelic football. But whilst on that journey, many kids – girls and boys – might learn of an opportunity to head to Australia and try AFL. Be the next Jim Stynes or Tadgh Kennelly. At this point. Careers do a complete right angled turn and Irish clubs face the prospect of losing their talent to another code – albeit related.