Kolja Koracak first encountered Aussie Rules in the USA, playing two seasons in the Arizona AFL. On returning to his homeland of Croatia, he started looking for ways to spread the word and get a regular fix of his new favourite sport.
Sash Herceg arrived in Perth in 1996, a recent immigrant from the city of Split on Croatia's Adriatic coast. After a few years of watching Australia's own football code, he decided to give it a go, playing senior football for West Coast Cowan in Perth and the Fitzroy Reds in Melbourne.
WFN recently caught up with the two to talk about plans for bringing the game back to Croatia.
The 2004 British Australian Rules Football League Premiership and Conference titles were won last weekend, with the West London Wildcats taking out the London Premiership, and the Shepherds Bush Raiders winning the London Conference. It was a big result for the Wildcats, as both winning teams are part of the West London club.
The first ever game of Australian Rules football played in the United States, at least in the "modern era", was between the Cincinnati Dockers and Louisville Cats, in 1996. In less than a decade the sport has spread to all corners of the country, with thousands of players competing. Alas Louisville went into recess a couple of years ago, but plans are underway to re-form this historic club.
When the Multicultural Cup was staged earlier this year, a Lebanese side took the field in connection with efforts by Lebanese-Melburnians who were setting up the structures for an Aussie Rules competition in Lebanon. The Croatian side in attendance also had links to compatriots hoping to foster their new homeland's number one code in the old country. Now the Vietnamese are getting in on the act.
In part two of WFN's feature on development in Japan and Vietnam, we caught up with Vietnam captain Tri Thoi.
Australian Rules football continues to grow steadily in the United States. Unlike many top American sports, Aussie Rules does not have a strong college presence. However several colleges have taken on the game, and September sees an exciting new phase for the sport, with the Inaugural Collegiate Invitational. This may well be the springboard needed to accelerate football's growth in universities throughout the US.
On August 18th the All-Japan Samurai met the Melbourne Vietnamese at Box Hill North's Elgar Park. The Samurai ran out comfortable 13.13 to 6.8 victors in a match marked by some impressive skills from a Japanese squad much improved from the side that travelled to the 2002 cup and some explosive pace from both sides.
In part one of our two-part feature on Aussie Rules development in the two nations, WFN's Aaron Richard talks with Samurai Coach Troy Beard.