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.
The Japan AFL held its annual two-day Australian Rules Football Carnival, the International Narita Cup, over the previous weekend, June 10 and 11 2006. Originally only contested by Japanese based teams, a rapid growth in the competition followed the 2001 inclusion of Australian VAFA team, Box Hill North. Box Hill North return again in 2006 hoping to avenge their 2005 grand final loss to the Japanese national squad, the Samurais, who have been forced to compete without star players Michito Sakaki and Tsuyoshi Kase, both trying their luck in Australia after training pre-season with AFL club, Essendon.
The New Zealand AFL, reigning International Cup champions, have announced their squad to contest the 2006 Australian Country Championships in Queensland in late July. This historic occasion will see the Kiwi's league up against some of Australia's finest country talent in a huge challenge for the New Zealand team.
As reported recently, the Western Australian Football Commission and AFL club Fremantle are interested in working with the AFL on the quickly growing South African footy program. It seems current league leaders West Coast aren't to be outdone by their local rivals, and are also discussing a training program there, no doubt looking at the excellent facilities at Potchefstroom.
The BBC UK Northern Ireland site reported this week that Martin Clarke will have a five week trial with an unnamed AFL club this July. We earlier reported that an Irish newspaper reported he had been offered a contract by the Brisbane Lions, but a further report in the Irish newssite Unison.ie (registration required) reveals that Collingwood are bringing him out to Australia in a few weeks.
The Ontario AFL has had a bit of a setback in 2006 with the loss of the Windsor Mariners and London Magpies, two struggling regional clubs, but this has been partially offset by the arrival of a new club based in Toronto, the Central Blues. We talk to club-founder Bruce Parker.
The USAFL today announced the cancellation of the annual East-West tournament that was scheduled for July 1st in Sarasota, Florida. The USAFL board earlier this year resolved to not have a repeat of 2005 where the league incurred expenses of $2700 and no return income for the event. Fifty player registrations were received for the event but when the league called for a $100 deposit (refundable at the event) only twenty-five responses were received. Given the response the league had no choice but to cancel the event with the likelihood that insufficient numbers would be available for a quality match, and that the league may make a loss on it.
With FIFA World Cup action drawing near and the Socceroos having qualified for the first time in 32 years, Australian sports fans are turning their eyes towards Germany in anticipation of the global sporting tournament. However going a few steps further some Australian journalists and soccer officials have proclaimed the demise of the indigenous game in favour of the world game. Dutch coach of the Socceroos, Guus Hiddink, recently said the world game will be number 1 in Australia ahead of "the other games you try and invent" referring of course to Australian Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union. However there is plenty of evidence that Aussie Rules has a great future, which we look at in this article.
Is the AFL the future of AFL in the US? In US professional sports the acronym AFL stands for Arena Football League. The work of Tommy Ellis, the Denver Bulldogs and the Colorado Crush suggest that the future success of professional footy in the US may lie with the Arena Football League rather than with that other AFL.
The Dallas Magpies have been the only club in Texas to last more than a few seasons to date, with repeated efforts to start regular footy in Houston, San Antonio and Austin failing to build lasting clubs. 2006 may be the turning point - with a Houston side playing matches and interested parties trying to get the Austin and San Antonio sides back from hibernation. However, a lot of hard work remains to be done - WFN takes a look at where Texas footy could be headed.
Catalan Aussie Rules founder Pere (Pedro) Moliner recently spoke with World Footy News about where footy in Europe currently stands and where it could go in future. Moliner echoes some of the views already seen in Europe, including the example of the Farum Cats in Denmark, where years of work at junior level is now translating into a senior side of young, but highly experienced, Danish players who make life very tough for other DAFL sides.
A preview of the 2006 Catalan footy season will appear shortly - in the meantime Moliner's full reflection on European footy follows.