It appears the Australian Football League and the nations likely to
attend the 2008 International Cup are considering whether to loosen the
criteria that controls which players are eligible to represent a nation
at the tournament. In the first two Cups the definition was very
strict, though not always enforced as rigorously as intended. Options
are now being considered which could widen the net considerably, to
allow players who are simply passport holders for a given country. This
has the potential to be a major issue with some countries likely to
favour a free-for-all and others keen to maintain the status quo. Changes to the overall structure of the event are also on the cards.
AFL Samoa development officer Michael Roberts sees big potential for Aussie Rules in Samoa, so much so that he believes it could easily become the second biggest sport on the islands. At the moment, there are school tournaments with around 3000 primary school students and 250 high school students to be held this year, a ten-team senior league and test matches against Tonga planned at both schoolboys' and senior level.
In fact, Roberts believes the game is growing too fast for their limited resources, saying "we could easily have another 15 highs schools and 20 primary schools on our books if we could only man such programs". With 6 AFL matches televised on Samoan TV each week he estimates around 60,000 of the national population of 200,000 people will have been exposed to Aussie Rules by the end of 2007, with the only thing holding back increased expansion being a lack of funds.
James (pictured left) and Jared Brunmeier (pictured at end of story) hail from Wisconsin, but since December they have been
in Perth trying to make the grade in the Western Australian Football League (the
WAFL is a AAA league for footy). The Brunmeier boys are completing the
second stage of the first year exchange program between the
Falcons and the
Bombers. The first stage saw
Cousins spending six months in Milwaukee helping the Bombers to their first
American Australian Football League (MAAFL) title. This is the second
time in Australia for both boys. In 2005 Jared spent a few weeks with
Kevin Sheedy as part of the Essendon/USFooty exchange program and played
reserves for the Hampton Rovers in suburban Melbourne, while James played in Sydney's amateur
league. Both boys represented the USA at the 2005 International Cup with
James being named to the All-International team.
Update: both the brothers played for West Perth reserves this weekend (Saturday 21st April) with Jared named best on ground in the Falcons' loss to East Fremantle.
Since the establishment of the Dubai Dingoes and their recent Dubai 9s tournament, there has been a flurry of football activity in the Middle East - additional clubs have been formed, rumour of a preseason AFL match in Dubai has surfaced and now we have been informed that preliminary talks have taken place investigating the possibility of league in the region, spanning as many as five countries. WFN spoke to Gary Johnson about the Doha Kangaroos and the heights footy might reach in the Middle East.
As expected the Australian under 17s squad has handed the South Africans a footy lesson in the first official Aussie Rules clash between the two proud sporting nations. Of course from the Africans' point of view that was exactly what they were there for - to learn more about the game from the cream of Australia's junior footballers. As new AFL South Africa Operations Manager Joel Kelly remarked in his review of the clash, the Aussies' form "was to be expected from a group of young men, many of whom will be at AFL clubs in the next year or two". More importantly the launch throughout the tour of FootyWild, the African equivalent of Auskick, was reportedly a great success and marks the start of what is planned to be a massive acceleration of development across the country. Many thanks to Joel for contributing information and photos for this report.
The Sussex Swans were founded by Julian "Rooster" Clark in 1990 as the first BARFL club outside London. From the start the Swans have been a particularly British club, with the majority of players British born and providing many players to the national squad. As a result it would be fair to say the club has struggled for success against the dominant London clubs which have had a greater share of expatriate Aussie players. However this situation has forced the Swans to become more innovative. With a controversial northern winter coming to a close in which regional teams had to decide between staying with the BARFL or joining the new ARUK league, the Swans chartered a different course – expanding their numbers to play in both competitions, as well as greatly expanding their club's junior operations as one of the first British teams with a junior development officer.
In a promising sign that Setanta Sports will be putting in significant efforts to promote Australian Football on its sports channels, last week they had Miss Ireland turn out for a photo shoot with the lads from some of the Dublin Aussie Rules teams. If the blonde beauty doesn't attract attention to the great game nothing will.
On Easter Monday, participants in the Washington DC
/Auskick program and
their families spent the morning on the South Lawn at the annual White House
Easter Egg Roll. The theme of this year's Easter Egg Roll was childhood
obesity, physical activity and fitness (which my wife thought was very funny
given the amount of chocolate on hand for the kids).
As if growing a new sport in a developing nation wasn't difficult enough, 2006 saw the Tonga Australian Football Association have a run of misfortune that impeded several of their major projects. Incidents such as the passing of members of the Royal family and civil unrest prevented an adults league from progressing and ultimately saw the cancellation of all sport in the Kingdom. However a lot of ground work was laid for programs ranging from youngsters through to the seniors, as well as obtaining AFL affiliation. Tonga's AYAD Development Officer Michael Russell is looking forward to a big 2007, including the commencement of fundraising with an eye on the 2008 International Cup.
Aussie Rules has been played in Argentina since 1997, but news from the country has been somewhat hard to come by. Ricardo Acuña has been a driving force in developing the game through the country's alternative sports organisations and his program is still continuing, through a small league known as the AAFAu. Brian Dixon also visited the country last year and established another contact for footy in the country. WFN recently spoke with Acuña about the state of play with the AAFAu, as well as with the AFL about Dixon's new point of contact.
(Alexandria, VA) In the shadow of
the George Washington Masonic Temple here in Alexandria, Virginia, and with the
snow melting on the George Washington Middle School Football field, 20 to 30
young men and women are out trying their hand at
It is a cold Easter Saturday morning but those brave souls willing to get out of
bed are excited to put the footy boots on, kick some goals and have some
fun. Ausball, is a version of
Footy", developed for the US. It is a 9-a-side game played on a
smaller oval (100 yards in length) with no tackling and various rules to
encourage coed participation. According to the Eagles website,
previous experience is necessary. Just some running clothes, maybe a pair of
cleats or sneakers and plenty of enthusiasm."
The Vienna Kangaroos have announced they will host the 4th Central European AFL Championships on Saturday 9th June, 2007. The CEAFL tournament has run every year since 2003, pausing only for the EU Cup in 2005, and has traditionally been a chance for countries with only one club or European leagues not yet at the stage of fielding an International Cup side to get a game against regional competitors. This year the format will be 9-a-side with one representative team allowed from each country. At least four countries in Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Finland are committed so far.
Further north, the year's second all-Europe 9-a-side championship, the EU Cup, is scheduled for September, hosted by the Hamburg Dockers. The tournament will be the second EU Cup, the first being held in London late 2005 and last year's tournament in France being cancelled.