A key part of maintaining Australian Football as the
premier sport in its homeland is providing first-class facilities for
spectators, and ensuring they are not denied the opportunity to attend
matches. With soccer now rising as the main threat to the AFL,
Australian Football administrators can no longer afford the luxury of looking at
their sold out stadiums and assuming all is well. Many other sports are
bidding for the family budget's entertainment dollar, and people turned
away will increasingly embrace alternative options. Over time the
stadia may continue to sell out, but the overall supporter-base and TV
audience could slowly be eroded. However footy has not been idle, with
most states enjoying major upgrades of facilities, and Western Australia
is about to do likewise, leaving only South Australia as the major AFL
stronghold with an insufficient ground.
worldfootynews.com is a not-for-profit group helping to promote the internationalisation of Australian Football. Our efforts are based around reporting stories about leagues around the world, sourcing initial information from websites, forums and a large list of contacts from inside and outside of leagues and clubs. The great Australian game is steadily spreading and to do it justice WFN needs several more volunteers. We are currently looking for new writers to assist in covering the Asia and Oceania regions, as well as Canada and Ireland. A writer specifically for Japan who speaks Japanese would also be very useful.
Supporters of international footy will be excited that the first country has arrived that can regularly provide valuable footballers to leagues in Australia. This means that the game is truly developing well in their country. Of course there is a drawback that must be remembered. The lure of Australia will provide players with valuable experience and possibly an income, but a net loss of players from the home country will weaken the domestic league they have left.
Carlton's Irish recruits, the O'hAilpin brothers, are continuing their development with the Northern Bullants in the Victoria Football League. The younger of the two, Aisake, has recently been in excellent form in the Bullants' reserve grade, twice named best player for his side. However he has now experienced another aspect of the game that he wouldn't be quite so keen to learn about - a visit to the tribunal charged with striking.
2006 will see Sweden and Germany in a tri-series against Denmark for the first time. This year's Swedish national side will be the first to be composed fully of Swedes - and the German national side will be the first official side drawn from teams across the nation to ever take the field. The series will kick-off with Denmark facing Germany in Bielefeld in June.
Playing half time demonstration games at other sporting events is just one of the innovations by Aussie Rules clubs in the US trying to gain exposure, recruits and sponsorship. The Denver Bulldogs are arguably the most successful club in the US and are reigning national champions. On March 25th the Denver Bulldogs hosted an indoor Australian Rules Football demonstration game on an Arena Football field when they played at halftime between the Colorado Crush and the Columbus Destroyers. The Pepsi Center is also the home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets.
The current AZAFL season has been another successful one already and we are only in May. Some US teams are just running out for their first kick. The six team AZAFL have completed their ten round home and away season, finals and grand final and managed to throw their AZAFL World Invitational Metro Footy Championship Tournament in the mix back in February.
Further to our recent stories on the success of Papua New Guniea's star youngsters at the Queensland U16 Country Championships and Queensland State U16 Championships, AFL PNG have issued a press release detailing their very encouraging results being achieved at junior and senior level in Australian Football. We don't normally publish entire press releases verbatim, but this excellent report from Scott Reid deserves a full read.
Highlights include Stanis Susuve's selection for the Queensland Scorpions, the DeLaSalle Scholarship and a summary of the seven Papuans now playing senior footy in the Sunshine state's leagues. AFL Queensland Talent Manager Mark Browning suggests higher honours await several of the under 16s players and AFL PNG CEO Andrew Cadzow believes PNG is now recognised as the emerging top talent zone outside of Australia, including Ireland.
The ramifications for the world growth of Australian Football are not yet clear. The rapidly accelerating strength of PNG may discourage other countries and if AFL clubs focus more on PNG than other nations may feel neglected. However, as Papuans make their way into the Aussie football system there will be wider recognition of the game's international potential, and this may well see increased support. Time will tell but for supporters of footy spreading beyond Australia's shores it is certainly heartening to see impressive results starting to flow. And when a few "home grown" Papuans do make the big time, footy will take off in Australia's northern neighbour.
The Melbourne Football Club and Melbourne City Council have made the headlines a few times in the last six months with their program to export Australian rules football to China via the sister-city relationship between Melbourne and Tianjin. Early this year Tom Mattessi was named as the first 'Ambassador' of footy to leave for China as part of the sister-city deal - WFN caught up with him to talk about progress so far, the immediate start-up plans and where the project could lead.
It was reported that the AFL will change the regulations after the 2006 AFL draft with respect to the age of recruits from Ireland to appease the fears of the GAA that their game will be stripped of some of their best young talent. Another young Irish talent Martin Clarke is the latest name to be linked with an AFL club.
The third Barassi Youth Tournament will be held in Canberra from 30 September to 7 October 2006 with teams likely to come from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, the United States of America playing teams from Darwin, the Kimberley and Australian Capital Territory.
Next month the International Youth Tournament named after AFL Legend Ron Barassi will host a Dinner to celebrate the launch of the 2006 Tournament.
The Melbourne Football Club's radical decision to develop the game in China looks set to take its highest profile step forward in October 2006 when they are expected to travel to Asia's giant to conduct clinics and play an exhibition match. This has been reported previously on WFN as likely but has now firmed considerably. Inspired by the City of Melbourne's sister-city relationship with Tianjin, a massive area of 10 million people (yet dwarfed by nearby Beijing, with over 15 million in its municipality), the plans include a key component missing from the one-off VFL international sorties of the 1980s. Rather than fly in and fly out, the Demons are already laying the groundwork and firmly intend to build their profile and economic links through a development program that includes demonstration matches and Auskick clinics. This foresight may not yield success in the next few years, but in the longer term if a genuine following develops then the benefits to the AFL club could be enormous. Excitingly, the International Cup is also now being mentioned more often in official circles.