In a surprise announcement from AFL Headquarters this week, the league has announced a major boost to its programs in South Africa with a view to the nation joining the Australia-Ireland International Rules series by 2008 at under 17s level, the seniors following before the end of the decade. The announcement also displayed an optimistic change in the tone of official announcements relating to international Aussie Rules, AFL chief Andrew Demetriou notably upbeat about the arrival of an AFL club drafting directly from Africa being close to hand.
Japanese players Michito Sakaki and Tsuyoshi Kase will be keenly waiting to see if they get a run in trial games with the Bendigo Bombers in the Victorian Football League. Currently training with AFL club Essendon, the pair will need to impress Bendigo's coach, Matthew Knights, a former champion of the Richmond Football Club. The Bombers have a relationship with Bendigo that sees them use the VFL club to play their AFL players not selected in any given round.
Mike ‘Scuba’ Russell wasn't expecting to suit up for his country when he attended the AFL exhibition match in LA but wasn't about to say no to such an honour. Here he gives us a forthright, first hand account of his day playing for the US Revolution team, made up of all American players. They took on the Aussie All Comers side at the UCLA last week as the curtain raiser to the Swans v Kangaroos match.
The New York Magpies and other organisers of the Australia Day longest kick competition, featuring NY Jet and ex-Geelong AFL player Ben Graham, have released further information on the locations and details of their contest.
The AFLPNG will this year send three junior teams on tour to Australia, with a boys under 16s squad touring in April, an under 16s girls team playing in the North Queensland challenge in Cairns in October and some of the boys under 14s competing at the Queensland Country Championships in June.
Melbourne daily newspaper the Herald Sunreported on January 16th AFL club Essendon are considering sending one of the Japanese players training with them over summer to its VFL feeder team, the Bendigo Bombers.
The Swans versus Kangaroos AFL match at Los Angeles last weekend was a long overdue return to the US for Australia's top sporting organisation. After years of lobbying and aborted attempts, the event finally happened. With so much to organise and all involved relatively new to such a task (given the AFL's long absence from North America), it was inevitable that not all would go smoothly. But critically the game was held, the AFL clubs appear to be pleased with the outcome and no major injuries were sustained - always handy when hoping to make it an annual event.
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Melbourne daily newspaper The Age today reported that a development squad of 22 young Australian Aboriginal footballers would tour South Africa next month, under the leadership of indigenous AFL stars Adam Goodes and Michael Long. The squad will leave on February 19, spending two weeks visiting black communities in the North West Province and playing three matches.
New South African coach Mtutu Hlomela (pictured) was a strong player for the Buffaloes at the 2005 International Cup and afterwards stayed on to learn about AFL operations. He also toured other states, building up relationships in the Australian Football community. During Mtutu's stay the concept of an Aboriginal tour was worked out and it is tremendous news that it is occurring so quickly.
Ben Graham, punter for the New York Jets and former long-kicking defender for the AFL's Geelong Cats, has been confirmed as an attendee of the New York Magpies' Longest Kick competition, an annual Australia Day social event and fundraiser for the Aussie Rules community in the Big Apple.
The Aussie All comers team has defeated the US Revolution team by 37 points at the UCLA today on a playing surface roughly the same size as the SCG. The match was played in front of a sell out crowd, as the curtain raiser to the Sydney V Kangaroos exhibition match, which the Kangaroos won by 48 points. Australian celebrities joined the the capacity crowd including, Olivia Newtown-John, Layne Beachley and Hugh Jackman. Australian Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, and former politicians John Olsen and Tim Fischer were also present.
Match reports to follow as they come in. Photos of the Aussie All-comers side added courtesy of Mark McParland.