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.
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.