Like Michito Sakaki and Tsuyoshi Kase last year, two young Japanese Samurais from the JAFL's Tokyo league have spent two months joining the AFL’s Essendon Football Club in pre-season training. Hiroyuki Toyama, aged 20, and Hiroaki Seino, aged 21, both joined Bombers training following the Aboriginal All-Stars game at the start of February and will finish up at the end of this week when they have to fly back to Japan for Uni. Among their experiences with Essendon, Hiroyuki and Hiroaki took part in an intra-club practise match and lined up for the Bendigo Bombers Reserves.
The Adelaide Football Club has inadvertently demonstrated just how long the journey may be for any other country to be in a position to be competitive against a true All-Australian senior side. Back in 2005 top Victorian country club Maffra flattened New Zealand before the Kiwis went on to win the second International Cup. Again in 2006 the Falcons were on the end of some hidings at the hands of country representative sides at the Australian Country Championships. Those results demonstrated the gulf between quality country players and the best international footy had to offer, but the Adelaide Crows recently showed just how big the gap is between the top two tiers of Australian Football within Australia itself.
In an interesting piece of news, a source at the AFL tells us that two Chinese sportsmasters recently visited Melbourne for a week-long workshop centered around Aussie Rules coaching and administration. According to the AFL's Josh Vanderloo, "Essentially, our international plan with countries such as China, India, Argentina and I would think Pakistan, involves identifying key personnel who can be trained over a week in Melbourne and return to their home country and begin teaching AFL to others. We feel this is a cost effective way to introduce the game to new countries and by providing basic resources and working through the language barriers, this form of training should be a good starting point. So to answer your questions, we are keen to follow this method of 'training the trainer' to help the country find their feet at a very basic level".
Also on this topic, Vanderloo tells us the planned visit of two development officials from India has been delayed by visa problems (as also happened when the last visit by an Indian squad was organised through the second version of the IAFC a few years ago), but that they are intending to organise another time for the Indians to visit. (WFN tried to help ensure the visa issue was solved in time but obviously not successfully.)
A program such as this could be the best starting point for a program in countries such as those listed above, particularly as the impetus in India, Pakistan and Argentina is largely reliant on locals rather than ex-pat Australians.
Aussie Rules in Samoa is back and set to resume its competitions and programs in 2007 after a very quiet 2006. Despite seemingly dropping of the radar after the Samoan team competed at the 2005 International Cup, the growing interest in the game has remained and the newly named AFL Samoa (formerly SARFA) is keen to get senior and high school competitions underway.
The arrival of AFL Samoa National Development Officer Michael Roberts has assisted the organization in Developing Programs and creating opportunities for all Samoans to try 'Aussie Rules' football.
The 2008 International Cup is now less than 18 months away (assuming an August 2008 date). This might seem like a long time to fans but supporters outside of Melbourne might want to start considering now whether they'll take a trip to Victoria's capital for the event. More importantly it means league administrators around the world will need to finalise whether their country will attend and start drawing up plans for getting around forty players and officials Down Under. Making sure players are available and sufficient funds are in place are two of the biggest issues. With AFL General Manager of National and International Development, David Matthews, recently speculating that as many as 20 nations may attend, we've looked at all the possible countries and rated the likelihood that they will be in Melbourne in 2008.
In 2006, without a Sherrin handy, Mark apparently introduced Ugandan children from a rural village to the concepts of Australian rules football by way of a tightly packed newspaper strapped with some flexible reeds and it has apparently proven popular. He says he plans to return in future with the real pigskin.
Ontario has proven fertile ground for expansion sides this winter and encouragingly enough, they’re all well outside the Toronto area, the hotbed of Canadian footy. There’s the Ottawa Swans in the Nation’s capital, the Cambridge Warriors in the Kitchener/Waterloo area (watch for an article on them in a few weeks) and a third side in the city of London, nicknamed the London Stallions. Home to the University of Western Ontario, the city of 335 thousand is located about 2 hour’s drive southwest of Toronto. If London sounds familiar footy-wise, that’s because a previous side, the London Magpies, went under after the 2005 season. The Pies struggled on and off the field having trouble fielding a side for their final few matches before missing the playoffs and folding.
The USAFL and the Louisville Kings Football Club today confirmed that Louisville, Kentucky will indeed be the host city for the 2007 USAFL National Championships on the weekend of October 13th and 14th, 2007. As reported earlier the rumours had been strong that this would be the case, and the claim had earlier been posted on the Louisville website before being withdrawn.
Like the Lund Bulldogs who briefly appeared in the mid-90s, the Lund Magpies have struggled with both playing numbers and off-field issues in their history, difficulties with finding a field meaning they never even got to play a home match inside the city of Lund. The Magpies recently announced they would fold for this season, but nearby Landskrona will see a strengthened Bulldozers side playing as a self-sufficient entity in the Scania league this year. Further north, the Karlstad Dragons are Sweden's newest team, and the first in the region of Värmland. One of the Dragons' founders, Jörg Pareigis, talks to WFN about the club's development so far.
Over the past few months, WFN has run two stories on the promising possibilities for Aussie Rules in Dubai. The first article, Dubai tries to get footy moving in the Middle East was about the city's newly formed football club, the Dingoes. The second, AFL match on the go for Dubai, spoke about an upcoming football match in Dubai, between AFL clubs Collingwood and Adelaide (scheduled for early 2008). Football in Dubai even made their local news, with Gulf News publishing an article on the Dingoes' story, although disappointingly, it was placed under the heading of rugby. Now the Dubai 9s tournament is on its way, with teams from Dubai, Oman and Qatar among those hoping to attend.
Game three of the 2007 Convicts tour of South Africa saw the touring Aussies lose their first ever match under the Convicts concept, going down by seven points in one of the country's spiritual hearts - Soweto. Although the Australians were hampered by injuries, it sounds clear that the Africans have improved significantly and one must now wonder whether they will threaten the top group at the 2008 International Cup.