For the last couple of seasons the Collingwood Football Club have held part of their pre-season training at an elite sports facility at high altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona (USA). But with their commitment to a match against Adelaide in Dubai in the Middle East as well as taking an active role in South Africa's Western Cape province, the Magpies have decided they can't reasonably fit too much overseas travel into one pre-season. So they will shift their high altitude camp to Potchefstroom, in South Africa's North-West province, and support development in Cape Town from there, before heading direct to Dubai.
The push into KwaZulu-Natal is also underway, with the launch of the program in Umlazi. More details of both these initiatives follows.
Footy in China has received plenty of attention in recent times, with Tom Mattessi and Andrew Sawitsch both working hard to kick-start local participation. Along the way they've had the assistance of a sister-city arrangement between Melbourne and Tianjin, as well as active Australian expat-based footy clubs in Shanghai and Beijing.
Currently footy is established in two main regions of China (three including Hong Kong). In the north, the Beijing Bombers are a mainly Australian footy club in the national capital, with some fairly new mainly Chinese university teams about two hours away in Tianjin. On the coast further south the Shanghai Tigers are also about two hours' away from the city of Suzhou, where a burgeoning juniors program is taking root in local schools.
The people working on the ground in China believe the potential to be massive, although there's talk the next step could require a funding injection from the Australian end to really create a solid, self-sustaining footy scene. Certainly many consider a Chinese team at the 2008 IC to be a strong possibility - and possibly a huge surprise packet on the field. Could China become the "new South Africa" with regards to development funding?
The countdown to the 2007 Narita Cup has officially begun with the Japan AFL this week beginning its promotion of the event. To be held in early October, it will coincide with the 20th anniversary of football in the country. Japan’s first taste of Australian football was a curtain-raiser to a Hawthorn and Essendon AFL match at Yokohama Stadium in 1987, and involved the renowned Waseda and Keio Universities. Since that initial game, the Japan AFL has been diligent in expanding football's profile throughout the country, with both a senior and university competition underway and representation (through the All-Japan Samurais) at the 2002 and 2005 International Cups. The Samurais have been one of the more active national sides, making an annual trip to Australia which will continue this year.
San Diego Lions (1) is hosting Golden Gate Roos (4) in a game that San Diego is strong favorites but would have interesting implications for the Top 10 if the Roos were able to win. This is only the second game for the Roos after they hosted and beat the OC Bombers (6) a few weeks ago. San Diego is coming off a convincing win at the Western Regional Tournament with victories over the OC Bombers and the Denver Bulldogs (2).
Denver is heading to Minnesota this weekend for a tourney against the Milwaukee Bombers (8) and the Minnesota Freeze. It should be a very interesting weekend as this will be one of the few opportunities for us to see a Western club vs an Eastern club prior to Nationals.
Very early on Monday we suggested Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy was unlikely to be reappointed beyond this season, and that Carlton coach Denis Pagan was a probable casualty at the Blues. Little did we know that within three days both men would have had the termination of their services confirmed. As discussed in Coaching casualties - writing on the wall for international footy friend, both have supported the internationalisation of footy, Pagan through the Irish experiment and Sheedy on a variety of fronts. We certainly hope this change for Sheedy won't see that commitment reduce, but rather increase. As we've alluded to before, an involvement in promoting the game via a position on the AFL staff is a possibility, and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou has offered a tantalising suggestion of that.
Held on the 14th of July in front of hundreds of spectators at Bangkok Patana School, the 8th Annual Asian Championships of Australian Football have been hailed a great success by all involved and once again raised the bar on the standard of footy played in Asia. The following report is courtesy of the Thailand Tigers' Asian Cup coordinator Steven Richards.
AFL stars Michael Voss and Jason McCartney with Allison and others at a footy clinic in South Africa
Australian Football is a unique game in the way it combines so many aspects of other sports from around the world, such as Rugby (tackling and an oval ball), Gaelic football (in the running flow of the game and carrying the ball), cricket (an oval field), soccer (possession footy and the importance of foot-skills), volleyball (the underarm serve the closest equivalent to footy's handpass) and basketball with aerial contests. Any Aussie Rules fan will tell you it takes the best parts of all these sports plus many innovations of its own.
The sport has also produced some unique stories. One of my favourites to write was about Benji Motuba (see Long trek from Itsoseng to Riverland for Buffaloes vice captain) and the hope the great Australian game had brought to the young African. Also from Africa comes the story of Allison Simons' journey. Born and raised in Kenya with European heritage, she travelled to England to complete her schooling then visited Australia where she fell in love with the country and its indigenous code of football.
Allison studied in Perth and began playing footy there before moving to Melbourne to do a PhD. While in Western Australia she became heavily involved in the local women's competition, something that would be a taste of things to come. Her journey has now brought her back to Africa, where she lives in one of the townships of Cape Town, leading the way as Australian Football begins putting down roots in African communities. WFN recently interviewed Allison Simons, discussing her world footy adventure.
We recently asked who would be the next Martin Clarke? Well it just might be Brendan Murphy. Murphy who plays Gaelic football for Carlow admitted this week that he had discussions with an AFL club representative, and described the talks as ‘very preliminary’. The 18 year old Murphy, like Clarke is another young star of the Gaelic game.
Coincidentally Brisbane Lion’s footy Manager Graeme Allan is in Ireland and Brisbane are believed to be the club involved. Recently Brisbane Lions Coach Leigh Matthew indicated that they were likely to look for more Irish players on the back of Colm Begley’s rapid transition to the game. Begley no doubt would aid the transition of any new Irish rookie to come on board.
What will be interesting to see this year, is whether any sort of recruiting battle ensues or even if clubs unexpectedly draft Irish youngsters from under the noses of other clubs that have been courting them. It has also been rumoured that Laois’ Conor Meredith and Meath’s Shane O’Rourke are high on Graeme Allan, Gerard Sholly and other club recruiters' lists.
Murphy, an electrician, by trade is pictured with this article, applying his kicking skills for his Carlow side.
The job of great friend of international footy, Kevin Sheedy, is on the line, with talk rife that the Essendon Football Club may decide this week that his record tenure at the club must come to an end at the conclusion of the 2007 AFL season. Besides being a premiership player with Richmond in the 1960 and 70s and legendary coach with the Bombers from 1981 through to the present day, "Sheeds" was also the last coach of Australia's International Rules side and has long been an advocate for internationalising Aussie Rules. After a relatively quiet past couple of seasons on the coaching merry-go-round, 2007 is shaping up as a major turning point for many AFL coaching careers with 25% or more of the 16 coaches likely to lose their positions.
USFooty today announced on their website that the 2008 National Championships will be held at Colorado Springs in Colorado. At the foot of the Rocky Mountains and just an hour south of Denver, Colorado Springs Cadet Athletic Fields boasts enough space for 4-5 footy ovals. The fields can be seen on Google Maps here.
In the past there has been some criticism of the late announcements of the Nationals venues but for 2008 that will not be an issue. Clubs will have plenty of time to prepare their trips and funding for their trip to Colorado.
The following is the announcement from the USFooty Site:
In the spirit of further developing their professionalism and forward planning for USFooty, the USAFL Board are proud to announce the site for the 2008 Nationals. Following months of extensive research and close negotiations, the USAFL Board and National Championships Organizing Committee are proud to officially release the venue for 2008 as Colorado Springs.
The Championships will be held at the Cadet Athletic Fields of the United States Air Force academy in Colorado Springs. The final date will be announced following the release of the Air Force Football schedule in March/April 2008, though as in past years it will be held in early-mid October.
As well as the magnificent grounds and facilities of the Air Force Academy, the Colorado Springs area (one hour south of Denver) offers great night life and with over 50 major area attractions, including the breathtaking Rocky Mountains which form the continental divide, there are limitless possibilities for a great vacation.
Our thanks to Rich Mann and Tom Ellis who have done a terrific job of securing the Air Force Academy for the 2008 Nationals. Thanks and recognition must also go to Tom Osborne of the Colorado Springs Sports Commission, Terry Sullivan of the Convention Bureau and Dr Hans Mueh, Athletic Director of the Air Force Academy.
Tonga is a Pacific nation comprised of four island groups, Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u and Niua’s. The latter three, referred to as the ‘outer islands’, are (apparently) frequently overlooked when it comes to sports programs in the country. Keen to make the most of this, the Tonga Australian Football Association (TAFA) visited two of the areas under what was labelled the ‘2007 Island Hop Tour’. In an era when Aussie Rules has been under pressure to reduce some physical aspects of the past, particularly to alleviate the perceived trend of parents guiding their children towards the lower contact sport soccer, it was interesting to hear that in some parts of Tonga locals thought footy might not catch on due to lacking masculinity and physicality. But overall it sounds like the tour was a solid step in the right direction.
The Finland AFL has recently released a new website, with pages for the national rep side the IceBreakers as well as the newly-formed domestic clubs. So far, Finns have two solid teams on the park with the Helsinki Heatseekers in the capital and a new all-Finnish side in the Halikko-Salo area of western Finland, as well as plans to found third and fourth clubs in the regional cities of Tampere and Turku.
As well as matches between Helsinki and Halikko-Salo, early August sees matches planned for the IceBreakers against Sweden and the London branch of the Convicts.
Fresh from back-to-back CEAFL Cup wins, the Finns will attend their first EU Cup this year and are making noises about being at next year's International Cup. Click on www.finlandafl.com for more information on footy in Finland.