After a superb debut that had much of the AFL media buzzing, Irishman Martin Clarke has backed up with three goals and making Collingwood's best player list in just his second match. Although the Pies lost the blockbuster against Hawthorn by 8 points, it wasn't through lack of ability by Clarke who was his team's leading goalkicker and finished with 13 kicks, 6 handballs and 3 goals 1. WFN has previously suggested that clubs that aren't actively seeking international recruits are probably doing themselves a disservice. In many ways it will be sad if the ranks of Gaelic football in Ireland are pillaged for young talent by AFL clubs, as their sport is major part of their culture and at least by appearances a very close cousin to Australian Football. But regardless, it seems likely that more than any Irish recruit before him, the almost instant success of Clarke will have club recruiters clamouring for tickets to the Emerald Isle. One suspects the GAA may go rushing back to the negotiating table for a restart of International Rules so they have some leverage with the AFL to try to prevent a surge in player losses. Given his auspicious start, Martin Clarke must be a good chance to receive a NAB Rising Star nomination. If his form keeps up, he could just be one of the top AFL stories of 2007.
With Fijian-Irishmen Setanta and Aisake O'hAilpin in Melbourne playing for Carlton and its VFL affiliate Northern Bullants, their older brother Teu has also taken up the game, joining the Leeside Lions in Ireland's local Aussie Rules league. At 29 Teu is several years older than Carlton's recruits and has played both Gaelic Football and Hurling to a very high level. He has represented Cork at U-18 and U-21, and then played seniors for Clare having moved there in 2001. He later lived for a while in London where he played both Hurling and Gaelic football. He has spent time in Melbourne with his two brothers and his debut appearance for Leeside helped push them over the line in a very tight match against the Dublin Swans a few weeks ago. The three athletes also have an older brother, Sean Og, who has had a stellar career in Gaelic football and impressed Australian footy fans with his strong performances in International Rules. So it seems talent runs right through the family - maybe one day Carlton will be recruiting Irishmen under the father-son rule.
The British Australian Rules Football League have held an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the upcoming Brit Cup, the 2007 finals and their proposed strategy for the way forward for the sport in Britain. The rival UK Footy plan was also put up for discussion as an alternative structure for the organisation of Aussie Rules in the United Kingdom. The UK Footy plan would see the existing BARFL set aside and a new body put over the top (see UK Footy unity plan being debated for more details). It's fair to say that although the new concept has been launched as a way of unifying the game, it can only do so if it gets widespread support. If it is seen as simply one side trying to roll the other then it will be politics as usual. Given that the BARFL recently discussed the proposal at the EGM, we spoke with BARFL Secretary Donald Eastwood to gauge the response of the Committee and clubs to both the new BARFL strategy and the opposing model. It seems they too would like to see some changes, but don't believe the radical step of dissolving the BARFL is necessary.
Geelong College are the first Aussie school to embrace Australian Football's journey into Africa. The school currently has a large party of high school students on tour in South Africa, playing football and netball against local sides and assisting with coaching clinics. This could be the start of an exciting new phase for international footy, since many schools conduct overseas trips to places like South Africa that provide tremendous cultural experiences, but now the schools can include the great Australian game as well.
On an absolutely beautiful day for footy, the
Washington Eagles (8)
racked up their third win of the year defeating Eastern Australian Football
League powerhouse the
Demons (6). It was
a big day out for footy in Washington DC. The game was played at Carter
Barron Park in bright sunshine and low humidity and a light breeze. Things
kicked off with a free
Kids clinic which was
followed by a little league game and an Ausball game allowing both parents and
kids to get a kick at the same time. After the preliminaries, the Eagles
and the Bombers headed out for the ball up, while kids, parents, and supporters
headed back to their fold up chairs and hamburgers from the grill.
Although our focus is mainly on international development, WFN likes to take some time to occasionally reflect on the world's elite Aussie Rules competition - the AFL. Traditionally the split round is regarded as a good time to review the season so far, with time to pause after 12 rounds gone with 10 to go before finals action. Two on field stories stand out this year, and they're very much related. One has been the return of attacking footy and the other is the return to strength of many Victorian clubs. There was early season doom and gloom that Victoria's AFL clubs were mostly a long way from winning a premiership and that other teams such as West Coast, Sydney, Adelaide and Fremantle were likely to continue their domination of the top four spots. Everyone had their view on "what was wrong with Victorian footy" and an official investigation was even launched. Here we are just a few months later and the top of the ladder is dominated by Victorian clubs - why the turn around and are they the real deal?
This recent article in the Age features Ireland among several Australian states in a map as one of the breeding grounds for AFL footballers.
While WFN hopes that other countries such as Papua New Guinea and South Africa may join this list in the near future, it does help to bring home the potential for outside of Australia into the mainstream. According to Kevin Sheehan in a recent Herald Sun article at least, South Africa will be next to deliver AFL talent, while AFL footballer Mal Michael is convinced that it will be PNG.
A highlight of the Asian football calendar, the Asian Australian Football Championships are now less than a month away. The United Arab Emirates Heat are one of two countries to debut at this year's Championship - their squad comprised of players from the country’s two primary clubs; its namesake and football-pioneers the Dingoes. Below is a brief look at footy in the UAE following the Dubai 9s and the Heat's preparation for Bangkok next month, plus a correction to the article's first release.
Ireland's Martin Clarke has opened his AFL career with a polished display in Collingwood's impressive win over Sydney at Telstra Stadium last night (Saturday 23rd June). Despite being named on the bench the 19 year old left-footer started on the field and played most of the match across half-back. Clarke was used mostly as a loose defender which allowed him to gather a high possession count. His first kick sailed out on the full and he naturally appeared tentative at first but quickly grew in confidence. As his possession count increased he revealed that of all the Irish recruits he has perhaps the most classical Australian Football kicking technique. Although still not 100% fluent his style was perfectly reasonable and was used to good effect throughout the night. Perhaps even more impressive were his reflexes and ability to take a tackle. Clarke was caught holding the ball on one occasion, but in many other cases was able to turn into a tackle and free his arms to give out clean handballs. Also notable was his mark of a "hospital" kick deep in the back pocket at a crucial stage when Sydney were surging. The ball hung above him and looked like an easy pick-off for the Sydney player, but Clarke leapt high into danger to get a hand on the ball then complete the mark falling to ground. There was also an incident later when he received a high knock and grabbed his head and there was fleeting moment when it looked like he may dwell on the blow rather than get back up quickly, but he was soon to his feet.
The Elgar Park Dragons, a mainly Vietnamese-Australian footy club who kicked-off in Melbourne this year, got a fairly impressive write-up in The Age newspaper today. The article mentioned some background to the Dragons, including the beginnings in the Multicultural Cup, plans to tour to Japan later this year, the substantial fan base starting to build at matches and the 4-5 winning record the Dragons have achieved so far - not bad for a start-up suburban club.
An extra item of interest (not in the Age's article) for the WFN readership - according to our sources, inaugral Dragons' captain Jiaming Pi (who's actually Chinese, rather than Vietnamese) was previously a key member of the Düsseldorf (now Rheinland) Lions in the AFL Germany.
Recently Kevin Morris, who has had a long and distinguished AFL career both on and off-field, joined key PNG football personnel National Operations Manager Peter Cates and AFL QLD Northern Region Development Manager and AFLPNG CEO Andrew Cadzow on the “Saveman” tour of PNG to kickstart their new season. Their tour made it plainly obvious that footy is exploding in the country of six million (with estimates suggesting it will grow to around 14 million by mid-century). It's an exciting time for the sport in Australia's nearest neighbour, with a new AFL Academy in PNG and the under 14s national side now set to follow the under 16s to the Queensland state championships.
Saturday is a make or break day for six of
Top 10 teams. Probably the biggest game of the weekend occurs in
Washington DC's Carter Barron Park, where the 8th ranked
Washington Eagles take on the 6th ranked
Demons. The BW Eagles are coming off a triumphant home and home series
against the 10th ranked
Tigers, taking them to the top of the
unofficial league ladder. A win on Saturday against one of the power
house sides of USFooty
would probably cement the Eagles position in the top 5 and put them on the road
to a Division 1 birth at the USFooty National Championship Tourney. This
will be Boston's first game of the year and it will be on the road, but the
Demons will need to get the win if they are going to hold on the Eastern
Australian Football League Championship. The NC Tigers have had a rough
start with three losses including the most recent to the
Philly Hawks for
EAFL points. Big Jason Heathcote's young chargers have to be at their best
when they host the third ranked
Magpies. Like the Demons, the Maggies are on the road for the first
game of the year.