Perhaps not unexpectedly the Australian Country Championships have provided a harsh reality check for supporters and officials of international footy. The 2005 International Cup winners, New Zealand, have gone down convincingly in their three qualifying matches against the top country footballers from around Australia.
Croatia hosted its first-ever footy tournament last weekend, with the Vienna Kangaroos and Czech Lions visiting Zagreb on Saturday July 22nd. The Croats repeated their form from the first tri-series tournament in Vienna, winning both their matches. Around 100 spectators attended the games, including some local press and the Australia ambassador to Croatia, Ms Anna George, who presented the trophies to the winning team.
This report courtesy of Kolja "the Croatian Crusher" Koracak.
The Australian Football Association of North America (AFANA) is conducting a poll aimed at footy fans from the US and Canada. They've also begun taking AFL Grand Final Party announcements for all parts of the world. This is a great resource for roaming Aussies and other Aussie Rules fans to make sure they enjoy the big day wherever they may be.
The New Zealand Falcons have arrived in Australia for their debut at the Wesfarmers Australian Country Championships. First up they've played a practice match against strong Victorian country team Maffra, before heading up to the Gold Coast where they will compete in the second division against top opposition, including a host of players with AFL connections. Australian eyes will view the Falcons as a measure of the strength of international footy.
The Convicts amateur footy side are set to repeat their successful 2005 tour of South Africa with another venture there in February 2007. The tour is a great chance to support international Australian Football whilst having a great holiday and visiting parts of South Africa that many tourists miss out on. They're looking for just a couple more players to field a well balanced side.
In recent years, the AFL has introduced a number of "themed" rounds each season. Rivalry, Grassroots and Heritage rounds each focussed on one particular aspect of football and gave it due recognition. Following their success, the AFL has introduced other complimentary rounds that have further played upon notions of "giving back" or "getting involved". One of the newly introduced themes this season was "Welcome to the AFL".
Australian Football has long received coverage in Papua New Guinea, but it's pleasing to see increasing amounts of media. A story on 6th July - "Aussie rules expands globally" - by Mike Hedge in the main PNG newspaper The National covered much of the ground that WFN has been bringing to its online audience. In an excellent rare mainstream media summary of the game, Hedge reported: "While the reaction to the success of the Socceroos is proof that Australians have embraced the world game, there is more and more evidence that the world is embracing the Australian game". The story mentions many of the Australian Football programs around the world.
On Saturday July 8th, the Baltimore Washington Eagles hosted its first USFooty Kids/Auskick clinic in Arlington, VA. I ran the clinic with the help of Denis Ryan (USFooty Kids National Coordinator) and members of the Baltimore Washington Eagles including Club President Rob Brunton and Senior Coach Matty Bishop. We had about 15 boys and girls aged 6 to 12. This was the first of two clinics for the year, with the second clinic on July 22nd.
For the second year running English schools have fielded Australian Football teams in the London Youth Games, with the Carshalton team scoring a narrow win over Hackney's side this year. Hopefully the high profile event will help boost interest in footy amongst children in the UK.
It's been a rocky road for Denmark's national team over the past five years - from an international glamour side to a surprise withdrawal from the International Cup. A new coach is on the case and a new era beckons.
AFL South Africa's program to send visiting Australian tourists into the townships to teach Australian Football was a great chance to personally experience the country in a way rarely available but with at times surprising similarities to home.