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.
The Dubai Heat, current Dubai 9s champions and the bulk of the UAE Heat squad which will attend this month's Asian Championships have launched their website. It gives an insight into the club, lists upcoming events and has several photos up of the club in action. Impressively this Wednesday 11 July, two Heat players, James Grlusich and Daniel Dugina will appear on television program Good Morning Dubai, and will inform viewers of the Asian Championships and recent football developments in the Middle East. Good Morning Dubai airs on City 7 Dubai at 7am.
In other news, the Collingwood versus Adelaide match proposed for Dubai is now probably just days away from confirmation. The Adelaide Advertiser last week ran an interview by Michelangelo Rucci with Crows official John Reid who has just returned from examining the polo fields that would be used for the match. The Advertiser tips Friday February 8 2008 as the day the AFL will stage the match, with Adelaide to use it as a welcome variation to the monotony of pre-season training, with the club possibly spending a full week in the UAE. Reid spoke of that reason as persuading him about the usefulness of the journey to the player group, though there are commercial and television rights issues that are more likely the initial driving factors. The match may see the end of the traditional Adelaide versus Norwood pre-season game, though as we reported in Adelaide demonstrate the long road for internationals, the series had become unhealthily lopsided.
Setanta O'hAilpin has shown some good form in 2007 under difficult circumstances and is certainly developing a cult status amongst Blues supporters. The tall athlete has been forced into ruck due to a long list of injured or poorly performing Carlton big men. At this stage it's fair to say "Carlos" is struggling in ruck, rarely winning the tap, so against Melbourne on Sunday coach Denis Pagan used him somewhat differently. Setanta took the centre bounces then switched to playing as a lead-up forward while Anthony Koutoufides, more a ruckrover (to use old terminology) did the bullocking work at boundary throw ins and around the ground. Setanta did an admirable job in the absence of regular forward Brendan Fevola, kicking two goals (and missing another) from his 14 possessions including 8 marks. Originally starting the season as fullback, the big Irishmen has become Mr Fixit for Pagan, filling holes wherever needed. His centre bounce leap is certainly improving, and there's promise as a forward, but at this stage he's likely to move back to the key defensive post if Carlton has all hands on deck.
Meanwhile younger brother Aisake could well have stepped up from the rookie list to fill the rucking void if not for an ongoing groin injury. The Blues lost the hitouts 19 to 60 against the Demons and goes a long way to explaining their recent run of losses. But unfortunately Aisake is now listed as out for the remainder of the season and most likely has undergone surgery to fix the problem. Hopefully that will allow him a full pre-season and to push for a senior squad spot. It's believed there are restrictions on how long a player can be on the rookie list, so Carlton may have a major decision to make.
The Southampton Titans, a team formed at the start of the year for the ARUK's Southern England division, received some coverage in Southampton newspaper the Daily Echo last week. The article focused on the Titans taking top spot on the ladder for their division, with a background to club founder Michael Krischunas.
In a significant publicity boost for Australian Football in the UK, Scotland's major national newspaper The Herald recently ran a full back page spread on work by the SARFL to grow the game. The article gave a good background to the game and talked about the dedicated Glasgow ground, Victoria Park, the push into schools and a program to give troubled youth employment experience at the BBC and law firm McGrigors. The article featured a detailed interview with the SARFL's Eddie McAvinchey. It explained that the 29-year-old (who was pictured in the story), originally from Armagh, is "at the vanguard of a disparate collection of individuals comprising the Scottish Australian Rules Football League, a four-team division begun by two Australian expatriates in 2003". McAvinchey was delighted with the amount of coverage given to the sport, although a little embarrassed that the author focused so much on himself. The article should lift the profile of the game amongst the locals and be a boost to the credibility of their junior program. As for McAvinchey, congratulations to him for getting the SARFL front-and-centre of the sports section. A small price to pay are the friendly jibes that have already started from his team-mates and work-mates about his media attention - the perils of the job Eddie!
After prolonged negotiations and over half the 2007 AFL season slipping by, it seems fans in Canada are finally getting the much improved footy coverage they'd been hoping for. AFANA have reported that Rogers Sportsnet have reached agreement with the AFL and Setanta (sports network) and has slotted AFL into its schedule. See Canadian Coverage Begins on Rogers Sportsnet.