The 2007 AFL season has opened with the second best minor round attendance in the history of the VFL/AFL. With 364,544 people attending the eight games in round one, the average was 45,568 per match, a great turnout across the nation. The biggest show was the re-match of last year's Grand Final blockbuster between West Coast and Sydney. Such matches are often described as "replays" of the Grand Final, and this one certainly turned out that way with the Eagles again home by just one point - the third successive one point result between the two clubs. With 62,586 fans in to watch the match, it was the highest minor round attendance between two non-Victorian sides. Obviously such a record is made possible by Sydney's Telstra Stadium having a greater capacity than any other footy stadium outside of Melbourne, but it still stands as a great sign for Australian Football's continued growth in New South Wales, the country's most populous state.
For our international readers, Australia is currently struggling with a severe drought which while it has had devasting economic consequences for the whole nation, areas outside the major cities have been particularly hard-hit by the loss of both income from agriculture and young people who migrate to the state capitals for work.
Another outcome of the drought is the slow collapse of water supply, both in the major cities and the country, where water restrictions have meant that many sports grounds are turning to dustbowls over summer.
With an ever-increasing number of sports grounds off-limits due to a lack of any grass cover, a new website has recently been launched under the title SaveFooty.com - where money is being raised to install rainwater tanks and encourage the use of recycled water on sports field. While the site is currently based around Aussie Rules clubs, rugby league, rugby union and soccer clubs are also intended to benefit from the charitable actions to save grass-roots footy from the drought.
In November last year, a representative Under 15 Pancawati side from the West Java Australian Football League (WeJAFL) hosted a Jakarta based British International School Under 15 team. Excitingly, this was the first time that the BIS kids had played a game of Aussie Rules. Even so though, the BIS squad gave the WeJAFL team a run for their money in a nail biting clash. A full match report by Robert Baldwin of the WeJAFL can be seen here on the Jakarta Bintangs website.
In another article posted on the Jakarta Bintang website, From Little Things, Big Things Grow: Banda Aceh Bandits AFC, veteran Bintang, Matt Stephens, takes a humorous look at the tentative first steps of a couple of the Aussie Rules faithful as they attempt to establish a new Australian Football Club in the devastated Indonesian province of Banda Aceh.
Australian football first came to Pakistan through the drug-help organisation, Tanzeem-e-Insidad-e-Manashyiate (TIM) in April of last year (see Pakistan keen to spread the word). Whilst the sport is still very much in its infant stages in the country, WFN marks the league’s first birthday with a look back on AFL Pakistan’s story so far.
In a positive move for Australian football in the Pacific, the NZAFL website reports that a new Chief Executive Officer has been appointed to oversee the growth of the sport in New Zealand.
Robert Vanstam, a former Queensland State representative and a member of the coaching staff that led the NZ Falcons to their 2005 International Cup win, will take over the position vacated by Rob Malone. He has a background in business administration and operations management, and has identified player development pathways as a key priority for NZAFL to put in place. (Editor: The appointment followed a disturbing period in which the position was vacant leading to concerns about the game's direction in NZ).
Further positive news in New Zealand concerns a report that SKY Sports will continue to televise Australian football in 2007. Details are yet to be confirmed, but early indications are that as many as four games may be televised in full per week, in addition to the weekly highlights package currently on air.
As this month’s Dubai 9s approach, ARI and the Dubai Dingoes have released the schedule for matches and other events on the day. There has also been a slight alteration to the teams that will be attending, now including five squads from around the city of Dubai, one from Doha (Qatar) and a combined squad from Oman and Abu Dhabi.
Details for Scotland's VB Haggis Cup have been finalised with six teams fronting up for the Glasgow tournament. The 2007 event will feature sides from Scotland, England, the Republic of Ireland and a combined Brussels/Strasbourg team.
Melbourne daily newspaper the Herald Sun reported on Sunday, 25 March that Ms. Abbe Land, mayor of California's 'busiest precinct' and Democratic senate candidate for California, will be at the MCG on Saturday.
Apparently the Roos have been adopted by Hollywood business leaders since they played the G'Day LA match in 2005 and they, like Dean Laidley, want the team to return in January.
Rumour has it that if they don't return the Socceroos will play a game there instead against an MLS side, possibly including David Beckham - although our sources tell us that the NRL wanted to do the same this year and were rejected as the AFL said they were still interested in future matches.
Australia’s indigenous population is very important for football. The indigenous community makes up only 3 per cent of Australia’s population and yet a staggering 12 per cent of players in the AFL are regarded as indigenous Australians. Last week the AFL and the Federal Government took a step to strengthen this relationship, establishing a $2.4 million program centred on encouraging indigenous Australians to take up Australian Rules.
Discussion between touring Australian side "the Convicts", USFooty and the AFL Canada has come upon the possibility of the Convicts taking on the US Revolution on Sunday, October 14th this year as part of the 2007 USAFL National Club Championships to be held in Louisville, Kentucky. The match will follow one week after the Convicts take on the bulk of the Canadian Northwind in Toronto on Saturday October 6th, as a curtain-raiser to the Grand Final of the Ontario AFL, Canada's oldest league and one of the biggest and strongest outside Australia.
Like Michito Sakaki and Tsuyoshi Kase last year, two young Japanese Samurais from the JAFL's Tokyo league have spent two months joining the AFL’s Essendon Football Club in pre-season training. Hiroyuki Toyama, aged 20, and Hiroaki Seino, aged 21, both joined Bombers training following the Aboriginal All-Stars game at the start of February and will finish up at the end of this week when they have to fly back to Japan for Uni. Among their experiences with Essendon, Hiroyuki and Hiroaki took part in an intra-club practise match and lined up for the Bendigo Bombers Reserves.
The Adelaide Football Club has inadvertently demonstrated just how long the journey may be for any other country to be in a position to be competitive against a true All-Australian senior side. Back in 2005 top Victorian country club Maffra flattened New Zealand before the Kiwis went on to win the second International Cup. Again in 2006 the Falcons were on the end of some hidings at the hands of country representative sides at the Australian Country Championships. Those results demonstrated the gulf between quality country players and the best international footy had to offer, but the Adelaide Crows recently showed just how big the gap is between the top two tiers of Australian Football within Australia itself.