The Melbourne Herald Sun has reported that the 2007 AFL exhibition match at The Oval in London is unlikely to go ahead due to a reluctance by AFL teams to play. This is consistent with WFN's information that the Western Bulldogs were keen to play in the annual fixture but that the AFL couldn't persuade any other clubs to take up the challenge. The timing is undeniably poor for AFL clubs as it immediately follows the end of the season and many players undergo minor surgery to fix up injuries that they carry through the year. With pre-season training starting just 10 weeks after the matches end, there's a very small window for surgery and recreation before work begins for the coming campaign. 2006 saw Port Adelaide take only a skeleton squad to London and the writing was on the wall then, despite good crowds regularly turning out.
It's a disappointing outcome given the match is the one chance each year for Australian Football to get significant exposure in England, though having said that, it has obviously been an expat event in the main. It's also unfortunate because the match has been preceded by an international between Britain and Ireland, and half-time has featured junior matches. Hopefully the event can be staged again in 2008 and perhaps a better time of the year can be found - something not too easy in the crowded AFL calendar.
In the story the AFL's general manager of football operations, Adrian Anderson, confirmed the AFL is looking at games in Dubai, Los Angeles and South Africa. Most of these have been reported as likely to be pre-season matches, rather than end of season as in the London case.
NZ versus PNG on the video scoreboard at the MCG in 2005
The AFL has released its preferred dates for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup, with late August and early September selected. Initial expressions of interest have been received from 15 to 20 countries, though some of those have acknowledged that they are not likely starters. The AFL has also put forth a proposal to split the teams into two divisions, recognising the very different stages of development around the world. Also sure to create much debate is the possibility of the inclusion of several teams drawn from some of Melbourne's ethnic minorities.
There is a "new" club in Canterbury (New Zealand) called the Christchurch Bulldogs, with the aim being for the Kiwis' most southern league to have four strong independent clubs. Read on for more information on how they went about forming a stand alone club, and other football related issues in the South Island of NZ....
The status quo out west was maintained this weekend as San Diego continued their winning ways. The day started with a convincing win to the Lions over the Orange County Bombers. And the Bombers also went down to the home team in Denver. So all was going as most would have expected in this years Western Regional challenge.
The big test was always going to be for the Lions to win in the mile high city, and win they did. A tight tussle saw the Lions get up by nine points over the Bulldogs in a famous away victory. The Lions now sure to maintain their number one ranking going into the 2007 Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky in October. The Bulldogs have some fine tuning to do with planned matches against Las Vegas and Kansas City coming up – but this encounter will leave them with a clear picture on what they need to do between now and October to challenge the current champions. Full scores and match write ups to follow as they come to hand.
The Hong Kong Dragons defeated the Bali Geckos 43-34 in a tight Asian Champs final yesterday, pulling ahead in extra time after scores were level at full time. Full results and report soon, in the meantime there is an interesting report of the final available from Thailand's English-language newspaper the Bangkok Post.
Update: The link is now invalid. Here's a few snippets from Alan Parkhouse's article:
The Hong Kong Dragons hung on to win their first Asian Australian Football Championships in a thrilling grand final at the Patana School grounds in Bangkok yesterday. The Dragons won a nail-biting grand final which went into extra time against the Bali Geckos in a match that had the noisy crowd of more than 1,000 on the edge of their seats.
It was a fitting finale to the biggest Australian Rules football tournament ever held outside Australia, which saw 10 teams from Asia and the Middle East in action on the plush grounds of the Patana School grounds in suburban Bangkok, trying to kick goals and behinds through the bamboo goalposts.
As the full time siren approached Bali kicked a behind to level the score and take the match into extra time. Two five minute halves of extra time were then played.
After the extra 10 minutes, with the crowd cheering loudly for the popular Bali side, the Hong Kong boys scored a scrappy goal with two minutes to go, followed by another behind on the siren to take a well-deserved 43-34 victory.
The votes are in from across the United States as we reveal the latest WFN USFooty Top 10 rankings. The reigning US Nationals champs, San Diego, have retained top spot, but there have been some movements lower down.
In a major upset, Germany have defeated Sweden in the first match of the Northern European Tri-Series in Berlin, to claim their first win in a test-level international. The Black Eagles led Sweden 9.8 (62) to 0.2 (2) at half time, before the Elks staged a major comeback to go down 11.11 (77) to 11.6 (72).
The draw for the Asian championships has been announced, with 20 pool matches scheduled between 10 sides on two grounds in one day. The tournament will also feature Australian rock legends "the Fauves" and has received coverage on Australian national radio station Triple J as part of "This Sporting Life", the program of legendary sports reporters Roy and HG. The AFL's Footy Record will also feature the Champs this weekend, which might help a few of the footy fans out there still unaware of international footy's existence to come on board.
The Geelong football club recently signed their second player under the AFL’s New South Wales Scholarship Program. Ranga Ediriwickrama, born in Griffith (NSW), but of Sri Lankan heritage, is a graduate of Sydney’s Westbrook junior football club. Impressively, he is Westbrook’s third player to catch the eye of an AFL club, with Michael Johnson and Josh Fenaroli signed under the same scheme, by Hawthorn and Carlton respectively. He is currently playing for Pennant Hills.
The Scholarship Program requires AFL clubs to select at least one and no more than two NSW sportsmen between the ages of 15 and 17 yearly. Each scholarship, which can last up to three years, sees the player given coaching and monetary assistance by their AFL club, in return for the club getting priority to draft the youngster once they are eligible. The program is designed to give greater strength to the AFL’s push into NSW.
The annual Brit Cup has been run and won but not in the city it was intended. Just as floods have played havoc Down Under, with parts of south-east Victoria dealing with the deluge just months after suffering from bush fires, and some Australian Under 18 championships matches having to change venue, so too has the weather intervened in England. Each year the Brit Cup sees Britain's locally born and bred Australian Football players (along with other European born players living in the UK) take centre stage as the Aussies sit back and enjoy a weekend off. It's an important time for local players as they get the chance to represent their club by themselves (played as 12-a-side) and push for selection in the British Bulldogs squad, this year with the added incentive that the next International Cup is only a year away. The Manchester Mosquitoes were set to stage the Brit Cup on the weekend but major downpours flooded their fields resulting in a last minute scramble to find an alternative. Happily the tournament went ahead and it included a very encouraging new addition.
It appears the Geelong Football Club will have to train on a baseball diamond this week before its big match against Collingwood, due to Skilled Stadium's poor condition (see Geelong turn to baseball diamond). It is not unusual for footy teams in North America to also train and even play on fields designed for baseball.
Last month an article appeared on the Inside Toronto Website bemoaning the fact that Aussie Rules had ‘given the boot’ to a neighbourhood 50-and-over mixed slo-pitch baseball league after 28 years of play in Colonel Samuel Smith Park. The article can be read here: Australian football trumps softball in Sam Smith Park.
The baseballers in Geelong shouldn’t have too much to worry about though, as the Cats will surely be keen to get back to the Kardinia Park ground as soon as possible. In the mean time let’s hope no one trips over the pitchers mound!
The US Western Regionals will be held this weekend in Denver, Colorado. The hosts the Denver Bulldogs will take on the San Diego Lions and the Orange County Bombers.
The matches will all take place in one day due to the appearance of only the hosts and two visiting teams. Arizona and Golden Gate are the most notable non attendees and it's also disappointing to not see teams from Las Vegas (the Gamblers are scheduled to visit Denver later in the year) and northern clubs Seattle or Portland. This aside the matches are sure to be top quality and true testers for each team.
As always the travel issue will come into play and gives the hosts a huge advantage (on top of playing at altitude), and an excellent chance to exact revenge on the Lions for taking away their National Champions status in Las Vegas last year.
The matches will be held at Cherry Knolls Park, Denver. Games will be at 10AM (SD v OC) 1PM (Den v OC) and 3PM (Den v SD). There will also be a co-ed demo of 'Aussie Ball' touch football competition and other attractions followed by a social function at the British Bulldog Saturday evening. No doubt players will take advantage of not having to front up again on Sunday as they have at past Western Regionals.