There have been a lot of questions floating around about what direction the Australian Football League will take regarding international development of Australian Football. In recent years they have been slowly building their commitment, in-line with the benefits that can clearly be seen, such as growing player numbers and a much improved standard at the last International Cup. But there have also been doubts and rumours of changes. worldfootynews.com is pleased to present a detailed interview with Kevin Sheehan, the AFL's Talent Manager, now incorporating the role of International Manager.
Football took another step forward in Pakistan recently with the Swat Continental Hotel in Mingora, playing host to the 'Seminar for the development of Australian Rules football in Pakistan' (WFN first reported activity in the region in the article College tournament planned for North-West Pakistan).
This year's Catalan Aussie Rules season kicks off on Saturday June 24 with Belfry Valls taking on new side the Barcelona Stars in Valls for the Mobles Pinky Trophy. Four sides will compete for the LFAC championship this year - representing the cities of Valls, Tarragona, Lleida and Barcelona - with the special match between Brazil and Catalonia planned for August.
Saturday the first of July will also see Belfry Valls visit Perpignan to take on the St Esteve Saints, who will also receive a visit from the Madrid Bears on the weekend of July 29-30.
In another sign of the International Rules game helping spread the word about the sports of Aussie Rules and Gaelic Football the first International Rules game was held this past weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina between a combine of the Atlanta Kookaburras and Atlanta Clan na nGael taking on the Charlotte James Connollys who had teamed up with the North Carolina Tigers. The game was played at the Overhills Soccer Complex in Concord just outside of Charlotte. With a population of 1.6 million people, Charlotte ranks as the 21st largest city by population in the USA.
There's been a lot going on in footy relating to New Zealand lately. Two young Kiwi born players have made their move on the AFL, one of their internationals has moved to Melbourne, and one of the key people in their recent success has moved into Rugby administration.
Footy in Stockholm is now three years old, with the organisation now working on adding a solid juniors foundation to its operations. The league had a few early setbacks this year - the new team in Linkoeping failed to form, then discussions for the Dynamite to join the SAFL's Regional Premiership were knocked back at the Scanian end due to the southerners not wanting to add the extra travel committments. Despite this, Stockholm have continued on, adding a three-match tour series against the new Helsinki-based footy scene and working hard to bring Aussie Rules to Stockholm schools.
This report courtesy of Stockholm's Damian Waldron and Ben Kirk.
One of the AFL's initiatives to encourage more New South Wales youngsters into Aussie Rules is now underway. Whilst as many as a dozen Queenslanders may make their AFL debuts in 2006, testimony to the great strides being made in that state, the greater Sydney area remains relatively unsuccessful at generating draftees. The apprenticeship system now being put in place allows and in fact requires each of the 16 AFL clubs to take on a younger player from NSW, hopefully to increase their development and provide an incentive to other talented juniors that have a choice of many sports. It's hoped this will be extended to international juniors.
With the formation of the SCAFL this year the Californian football scene returns to be one of the strongest footy regions in the US. The six round metro format competition has seen the Inland Empire Fire, 951 Purple Raiders, the OC Bombers and the LA Swans battle it out and bring regular competition for veterans and rookies alike.
The 2006 Papua New Guinea National titles have been postponed to September, due to concerns that too many regions could not afford to attend. This is a reminder that for all footy's great gains in PNG in recent years, the country is by no means weathy and travel is a major commitment. On a brighter note, there is a suggestion that an Aussie side may travel to PNG to play, and the Arafura Games are on the agenda.
The Croatian footy team arrived in Vienna on Saturday June 10th, happy to be able to play its first game ever. The team was participating in the Schnitzel Cup, alongside the Czech Lions and hosts Austria (the Vienna Kangaroos - recently rechristened from the Vienna Dingos) in the first tournament of their fledgling tri-nations series. As the Austrian and Czech squads had a few years' experience in playing footy, Croatia came in as underdogs, but won both their matches to run out champions of the day.
In 1999 I joined the Milwaukee Bombers and became one of a small group of people pioneering footy in Wisconsin. In those early days, I would drive an hour and half up to Milwaukee to run around with 5 or 6 (not so fit) Australians and the odd American (often quite odd). I think it was after my first practice, that I was given the email address of a bloke in Madison and told to start something in my home town. Gary Hill, a physicist, and I would run regular training sessions in Madison and we even hosted a couple of games. The numbers were always light and Milwaukee always got stomped on by Chicago. The two clubs got so sick of the one-sided games that it eventually led to an on-field fight. You've gotta believe that things are pretty bad if the on-field scuffles are over footy administration. Things have changed a lot since I left. Last year the Bombers hosted the USFooty Nationals and they have become one of the dominant sides of USFooty.