Zimbabwean-born Tinashe Nyatsanga took up upiring footy while at university in Geelong. After umpiring local Geelong and Bellarine Football League matches, he was one of the umpires able to officiate at the match between South Africa and the Clontarf Academy in Perth recently. An account of his trip is featured on the AFL website here, let's hope he's a sign of things to come in the increasing multiculturalism of Australian rules.
With a controversial summer behind it, the British footy season is about to begin in earnest with the new Aussie Rules UK seniors competition opening up with the Southern and Wales leagues on April 28th and the Northern league on May 5th, with the BARFL's first 2007 match also on April 28th (not confirmed) but the rest starting on May 5th. After a frenzy of meetings, emails and phone calls, the two separate leagues appear to have settled into their final configurations for 2007. We untangle the complicated web of which clubs ended up where and how the year is scheduled to unfold, and reveal that there is a glimmer of hope of the two sides working together in future.
After the PNG national under 16s side, the Binatangs, won the last two Queensland Country championships tournaments, the AFL Queensland has now invited them to the all-Queensland state championships. The following article appeared in the PNG Post-Courier newspaper:
THE Papua New Guinea Binatangs will for the first time participate in the Queensland State championships.
AFLPNG operations manager Peter Cates said this was because the Bintangs had been the Champions of the Queensland AFL Country Championships for the last two years.
“Due to this outstanding performance they have been rewarded by the Queensland AFL, and from 2007 they will participate as part of the Queensland State Championship. They will also come under the close scrutiny of AFL talent scouts.”
The Under 16 Binatang team is : Joseph Yara (Highlands), Greg Aki (Highlands), Daniel Rufus (Highlands), Raphael Malau (Highlands), Nelson Kerowa (Highlands) Kenneth Buka (Kimbe) , Jalal Gori (Kimbe), Neville Kaiwa (Kimbe) Charles Nalong and Peter Labi; (Lae) David Meli, Amua Pirika, Willie Hayufa, Vagi Vaina, Gagu Kaiyage, Eddie Tilik, Willie Dasi, Garry Kele, Simon Meakord, Wingti Pena, Jolam Tonga, Ferdinand Musi, Garrett Masab (Port Moresby), Nathan Baramun (Buka) and Junior Kauri (Gulf).
In the latest round of Footy Shorts we report on the good form of Colm Begley leading to controversy in Ireland, with the young gun showing impressive form just 18 months since starting out in Australian Football. And there's the strange but apparently true story of thieves stealing water from a football club in Brisbane - perhaps not surprising given the degree to which drought is now hurting much of Australia, perhaps even to the point of threatening footy.
It appears the Australian Football League and the nations likely to
attend the 2008 International Cup are considering whether to loosen the
criteria that controls which players are eligible to represent a nation
at the tournament. In the first two Cups the definition was very
strict, though not always enforced as rigorously as intended. Options
are now being considered which could widen the net considerably, to
allow players who are simply passport holders for a given country. This
has the potential to be a major issue with some countries likely to
favour a free-for-all and others keen to maintain the status quo. Changes to the overall structure of the event are also on the cards.
AFL Samoa development officer Michael Roberts sees big potential for Aussie Rules in Samoa, so much so that he believes it could easily become the second biggest sport on the islands. At the moment, there are school tournaments with around 3000 primary school students and 250 high school students to be held this year, a ten-team senior league and test matches against Tonga planned at both schoolboys' and senior level.
In fact, Roberts believes the game is growing too fast for their limited resources, saying "we could easily have another 15 highs schools and 20 primary schools on our books if we could only man such programs". With 6 AFL matches televised on Samoan TV each week he estimates around 60,000 of the national population of 200,000 people will have been exposed to Aussie Rules by the end of 2007, with the only thing holding back increased expansion being a lack of funds.
James (pictured left) and Jared Brunmeier (pictured at end of story) hail from Wisconsin, but since December they have been
in Perth trying to make the grade in the Western Australian Football League (the
WAFL is a AAA league for footy). The Brunmeier boys are completing the
second stage of the first year exchange program between the
Falcons and the
Bombers. The first stage saw
Cousins spending six months in Milwaukee helping the Bombers to their first
American Australian Football League (MAAFL) title. This is the second
time in Australia for both boys. In 2005 Jared spent a few weeks with
Kevin Sheedy as part of the Essendon/USFooty exchange program and played
reserves for the Hampton Rovers in suburban Melbourne, while James played in Sydney's amateur
league. Both boys represented the USA at the 2005 International Cup with
James being named to the All-International team.
Update: both the brothers played for West Perth reserves this weekend (Saturday 21st April) with Jared named best on ground in the Falcons' loss to East Fremantle.
Since the establishment of the Dubai Dingoes and their recent Dubai 9s tournament, there has been a flurry of football activity in the Middle East - additional clubs have been formed, rumour of a preseason AFL match in Dubai has surfaced and now we have been informed that preliminary talks have taken place investigating the possibility of league in the region, spanning as many as five countries. WFN spoke to Gary Johnson about the Doha Kangaroos and the heights footy might reach in the Middle East.
As expected the Australian under 17s squad has handed the South Africans a footy lesson in the first official Aussie Rules clash between the two proud sporting nations. Of course from the Africans' point of view that was exactly what they were there for - to learn more about the game from the cream of Australia's junior footballers. As new AFL South Africa Operations Manager Joel Kelly remarked in his review of the clash, the Aussies' form "was to be expected from a group of young men, many of whom will be at AFL clubs in the next year or two". More importantly the launch throughout the tour of FootyWild, the African equivalent of Auskick, was reportedly a great success and marks the start of what is planned to be a massive acceleration of development across the country. Many thanks to Joel for contributing information and photos for this report.
The Sussex Swans were founded by Julian "Rooster" Clark in 1990 as the first BARFL club outside London. From the start the Swans have been a particularly British club, with the majority of players British born and providing many players to the national squad. As a result it would be fair to say the club has struggled for success against the dominant London clubs which have had a greater share of expatriate Aussie players. However this situation has forced the Swans to become more innovative. With a controversial northern winter coming to a close in which regional teams had to decide between staying with the BARFL or joining the new ARUK league, the Swans chartered a different course – expanding their numbers to play in both competitions, as well as greatly expanding their club's junior operations as one of the first British teams with a junior development officer.
In a promising sign that Setanta Sports will be putting in significant efforts to promote Australian Football on its sports channels, last week they had Miss Ireland turn out for a photo shoot with the lads from some of the Dublin Aussie Rules teams. If the blonde beauty doesn't attract attention to the great game nothing will.
On Easter Monday, participants in the Washington DC
/Auskick program and
their families spent the morning on the South Lawn at the annual White House
Easter Egg Roll. The theme of this year's Easter Egg Roll was childhood
obesity, physical activity and fitness (which my wife thought was very funny
given the amount of chocolate on hand for the kids).