In two tremendous announcements for international footy, AFL South Africa are now mentioning the possibility of hundreds of thousands of players, and there is confirmation that an elite Australian under age side will play a full Test match against the Africans in April - as far as we know the first such Australian Football international featuring a true Australian representative side.
A possible exception has been brought to our attention - an invitational juniors match between Australia and PNG in Adelaide in 1977, as mentioned here). We've also been told by reader John Milton that there were age concessions, with the Aussies under 17s and PNG under 19s, with the taller Australians getting up in a close one. Similar concessions are likely this time around.
Funding for Australian Football is always a contentious subject, with literally thousands of clubs across Australia and the world fighting for a "piece of the pie", either directly or through support for their league. This applies to AFL clubs, state leagues, amateurs, country and other grass-roots programs. This is equally true of international interests, but for supporters of the game's spread, it can be argued that overseas concerns should in some cases surpass that of Aussie regions, primarily base on an argument of potential. That case may not stand up so well according to many Australian clubs, especially with an already heavy focus on Queensland and New South Wales and not so much to other states.
It's in that context that funding is decided. In 2006 the AFL put several new systems in place to deal with the game internationally. A lot of the programs sound encouraging and are based on logical arguments. There have also been significant announcements regarding footy in South Africa. On the other hand there have been quiet grumbles of dissatisfaction and concerns that the African gains could come at the expense of other nations. We look at all these issues and talk to some of the leagues about their funding in 2006 and hopes for 2007.
The Revolution head off down the road to Melbourne 08 by hosting the Canadian Northwind in Houston on January 20 2007. According to the Revos, “the road to the 2008 International Cup begins in January.” 2007 is a big year for the American Revolution as they prepare to win the 2008 International Cup. USFooty has brought in a new head coach, Trevor Lovitt and Trevor has brought in new coaching staff including former head coach and American Revolution player Tom Ellis. The Revos have a home and away series against the Northwind and team practice and selection at USFooty’s East vs West All Star game weekend. The first match against Canada is in Houston on Saturday 20th January, the All-Star weekend is set for May 19 and the second game of the Revos/Northwind series will be in Vancouver in August. USFooty is also looking to have an early game in Houston featuring Revos hopefuls (see USFooty website for more details). Read on for more details of how the US are preparing for 2008.
Footy in Bakersfield, California, pretty much came to a standstill in the second half of 2006 as Barbarians founder Leigh Hickling was unable to dedicate as much time to the game. He remains keen to keep the sport alive in the inland city of 300,000 people (with around 400,000 more in the greater surrounding area of Kern County), but with a small player base thus far, it was a tough year for the fledgling club.
A few concerned readers have contacted us wondering if there are any major concerns behind the current downtime of the Australian Rules Football League Ireland and British Australian Rules Football League websites (you'll be tempted to click on them anyway since they're hyperlinked). WFN has been in contact with the webmasters of both sites and have been assured that these are just the usual website/webhost glitches experienced by many websites and they hope to be back up and running soon.
We may as well take this opportunity to thank Ripefruit for the excellent service they provide us with here at WFN.
One of Australian Football's oldest international leagues, the Danish AFL, has decided to expand its Premier League to six sides for the coming 2007 season. The new club is the Port Malmö Maulers, from the growing Swedish football scene.
In USFooty 2006 was the year of the Lion. The San Diego Lions completed an undefeated season by dispatching perennial champions the Denver Bulldogs at the USFooty National Championship Tournament in Las Vegas on October 8. Their year began well with 11 players (5 Australians and 6 Americans) representing the club in the first ever Australia-Revolution game for G'Day LA Week in early January. With that initial start, the San Diego Lions web page predicted: "2006 will be the Year of the LION". The club went on to defeat the Dallas Magpies and Golden Gate Roos, before winning the first Western Regional Tournament in San Pedro, CA with wins over the Arizona Hawks, the Orange County Bombers and the Denver Bulldogs, defeating Orange County in a home and away series and then hosting and winning the second Western Regional Tournament with wins over Denver, Las Vegas Gamblers, and Orange County. Their home stretch was a win over the Dallas Magpies and then going undefeated at the USFooty National Championship Tournament in Las Vegas with wins over the Golden Gate Roos, the Boston Demons, the Milwaukee Bombers and defeating the Denver Bulldogs 33 to 12 in the National Championship game.
In 2006 the Australian Football League continued to demonstrate its hold on Australia as the dominant football code and winter sport. The year started with the media digesting the news of the record AU$780 million 5-year TV deal. The game also successfully faced the rising challenge of soccer with Australia's surge deep into the soccer World Cup in Germany and unprecedented media coverage. Crowds at AFL matches were virtually the same as in 2005, with home and away matches averaging 35,251 spectators, just 445 per game less than the record set the previous season. Rule changes saw less serious knee injuries to ruckmen and a quickening of the game. There were also promising announcements for funding for footy in South Africa, and a major restructure of the way the AFL approaches international development - more on that in a later article. The Aussie Rules matches culminated in the blockbuster one point win to West Coast in the Grand Final over Sydney. But amongst the successes there have been several issues that will need to be addressed in 2007.
The AFL has confirmed that the 2007 "Once in a Dreamtime" game, to be played in Darwin between Essendon and an Aboriginal All-Stars side, will feature South Africa's under 19s taking on the Qantas AFL Indigenous Youth Team as the curtain-raiser.
The Collingwood Magpies have their own webcast known as CTV, and recently on their free coverage they had an interview with recent Irish signing Martin Clarke and followed their Brazilian born player "Harry" O'Brien back to his roots in Rio.
A recent article in the Auckland press sheds light on one of New Zealand's young up-and-coming players and exposes some of the key difficulties involved in growing junior football participation in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
As the AFL continues its push into South Africa, role models for budding young players can be an important factor. Obviously it will be much more significant when a player groomed in a local competition is drafted into the Australian Football League, but in the meantime AFL South Africa may be able to leverage the recent rookie listing of a young player born in their country.