The greatest growth in international Australian Rules Football in recent years has been in the island countries surrounding Australia. Their location makes this no surprise, but until the 1990s, there was no real sign of the developments to come. Now two strong countries have emerged, with New Zealand and Papua New Guinea numbers exploding, and several new nations have begun the struggle to establish the sport.
It was pleasing to see that international footy received some recognition in the Australian Football League's season review. Although small, it is another small step as the game's growth around the world receives more attention.
Australian Rules Football appears to be going from strength to strength in Papua New Guinea. Numbers are growing fast, especially at junior level, and the game is developing a great reputation in the community, both on and off the field.
South Africa stands alone as a beacon for Aussie Rules in Africa (with the exception of some junior clinics in Kenya). If it can become a major sport in that country, there could easily be a natural spread to surrounding nations, as South Africa is the economic powerhouse of the continent, providing employment for hundreds of thousands of immigrants. World Footy News reviews last year's numbers in this third instalment of its 2004 census.
Greece have won the Australian Football Multicultural Cup for 2005, defeating traditional rivals Turkey by 14 points in the final. Eight sides, representing Melbourne's Croatian, Turkish, Greek, Vietnamese, Italian, Israeli, Lebanese and Aboriginal communities were on show, with the day held in great spirits in keeping with Harmony Day.
In good news for the many fans of Australian Rules Football outside Australia, several options for overseas fixtures are being considered for 2005 and 2006, with England, New Zealand, the US and United Arab Emirates all being mentioned.
As part of a night of celebrations for teams and individuals achieving national or international triumph in their sport, the Frankfurt Redbacks were awarded an Ehrenmedaille ('Medal of Honour') by the city of Frankfurt on February 25th.