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.
Collingwood's Irish rookie, Martin Clarke, is set to make his debut against Sydney at Telstra Stadium this Saturday. The champion junior from County Down is the latest to show that with hard work the step from talented Gaelic footballer to the AFL's professional ranks can be done in less than two years. With only around 14 games of Australian Football to his name the 19 year old has in fact been Down Under for less than 12 months. Making Williamstown's best players in three of their last four games, Clarke has been named on the interchange bench but is sure to get a good run such is the modern game with hard running and dozens of interchanges. It will be a huge match to start off Clarke's career with over 60,000 expected to attend Sydney's home away from the SCG.
There could have been two Irishmen running out on the night, but Sydney stalwart Tadhg Kennelly suffered a knee injury in the Swans' last game and is expected to miss at least a month.
The rise of Martin Clarke will leave Aisake O'hAilpin as the remaining Irish recruit in the AFL system yet to play at the highest level, but reports suggest he isn't far away from a crack at the big time too.
Just a quick note that our 2005 International Cup multimedia section has been restored after being inadvertently lost during a system upgrade. We have also decided to allow commenting on most stories by registered users. It was a worthwhile feature previously and sometimes provided excellent new information from readers. We remind users the system is intended for constructive comment on international footy. Please respect this community resource - abuse and deliberate misinformation will not be tolerated.
South Warrnambool Football Netball Club has recently made a cross-Tasman "raid" to secure 20 year old New Zealander Moss Doran. The Kiwi played his first senior game for the Roosters two weeks ago against Terang Mortlake and it could be the start of a trans-Tasman alliance. South Warrnambool president Gary Walsh was reported as saying it was hoped the club would travel to New Zealand within two years to play some exhibition games and help foster the game. This builds on several other forays to Australia by New Zealand players - we have a look at Doran and the growing links between Aussie Rules in NZ and Australia.
The much talked about Collingwood versus Adelaide match proposed for Dubai (one of the seven emirates constituting the United Arab Emirates) moved a step closer this week with the likely venue getting a big tick from AFL ground operations manager Jill Lindsay. The US has found polo fields a good option for staging major Australian Football events such as their Nationals and it seems this trend will spread to the UAE, as the Dubai Polo Club has been ear-marked to host the likely match, probably as an exhibition game immediately before the usual NAB Cup tournament that precedes the regular season.
Early February 2008 is the likely time frame and Mark Stevens reports in the Herald Sun (see Dubai pre-season gets OK that the AFL believes it could attract a crowd of up to 10,000 people, thanks largely to the big Aussie expat community, so temporary stands would need to be erected. If the game goes ahead the AFL sees it as a "great opportunity to broaden the brand". A possible failing of past overseas forays has been to not link in with local communities to seed the game, so let's hope some ground work is done, including with local side the Dubai Dingoes, to make a lasting impact. This will be a challenge in the Muslim nation that has around 1.5 million residents but of which less than 20% are regarded as UAE nationals, with foreign workers making up the bulk of the population, mostly coming from India and surrounding countries.
As football begins to establish itself outside of Australia, more and more clubs and leagues are implementing junior programs. This benefits football through improved exposure and offers the entities a future talent pool to draw from. Japan is home to two football leagues, the Japan AFL and the Nippon AFL both of whom have tried to get youth involved with footy. The latter has launched the ‘Japan Joeys’ and have held clinics at elementary schools throughout Osaka whilst several clubs in the JAFL have held similar clinics or formed a junior arm – such as what the Osaka Dingoes have done with 'the Russells'. Now, independent of both bodies, Wayne Garth has held football clinics at the Tokyo International School.
GAA Director of Games, Pat Daly, was quoted in the Melbourne Herald Sun as saying the GAA wanted a meeting by late July to discuss ways to resume the International Rules Series. He spoke of the majority of elite level Gaelic footballers wanting the chance to represent Ireland: "The players are very much in favour of it and want it to continue". The AFL's media relations manager, Patrick Keane, reiterated the AFL's desire to see the series resume, but said no meeting date had been set at this stage and they were awaiting the GAA on a meeting date.