Like Canada’s population, its Australian Football sides (past and present) are spread out in three areas, Southwestern British Columbia, the Edmonton-Calgary corridor and between Windsor and Quebec, where the majority of Canadians reside. The new Ottawa Swans side is trying to expand on the latter and so far are having a great deal of success. Ottawa is Canada’s capital and combined with outlying areas in both Ontario and Quebec, the National Capital Region is home to 1.1 million people.
Canada's new coach, Mark Block, has posted on the AFL Canada website his summary of the Northwind's trip down to Texas to take on the USA. Although his team went down by 26 points, a fairly large margin in a low scoring game, Block's report remains positive about the players' efforts and is obviously seen as just one step on the longer journey.
Photos from 2007's first major international are also available at Phototainable, the website of semi-professional photographer Edward Habgood, who captured some of the action at the match, including those pictured in this story.
Many of the great names in Australian Football are not Anglo names consistent with Australia's largest migration contributor, England. A great number of the game's stars have been first, second or third generation Aussies whose recent family tree consist of languages other than English. Players from the past like Alex Jesaulenko and current champs like Anthony Koutoufides have made the sport their own. In the last couple of years the AFL has increasingly encouraged Australia's diverse migrant community to embrace Aussie Rules, as has happened in the past to a large extent without official involvement. A useful tool in this process is a simple introduction to the game in 17 different languages.
The AFL Australian Institute of Sport youth tour to South Africa in April, discussed in our recent story South Africa target 28000 players by 2010, youth Test match confirmed, will feature the first fully representational juniors match between the two countries. The 2006 Indigenous tour saw an Aboriginal selection play two Australian Football matches against the South Africans and one International Rules game. The hybrid game has many supporters but also many who are less than keen to see the game played. The opinions of WFN writers undoubtedly varies, but I suspect all would agree that where Australian Football is an option it should be played. So when the forthcoming match was announced we were keen to check that the game will indeed be what we affectionately call footy. The response from AFL South Africa's CEO, Jean Verster: "Aussie Rules for sure". That will bring a smile to a lot of faces.
Saverio Rocca, who finished his AFL career last year with North Melbourne with the aim of playing NFL football has been offered a non guaranteed contract by the Philadelphia Eagles. He earlier tried out with the Buffalo Bills, but now will compete with the Eagles' current Punter in the preseason for the punting spot.
Saturday January 20th saw the seventh meeting of US Revolution and the Canadian Northwind in the 49th Parallel Cup, held for the first time in Houston, Texas. This was the first of two games between the two teams in 2007 as both countries prepare for Melbourne 2008. In wet and blustery conditions that could only be described as “perfect Melbourne weather” (for winter at least), the Revos easily accounted for the Northwind, 4.10 (34) to 1.2 (8).
Later today the United States national Australian Football side, the Revolution, take on Canada's Northwind in the first international for 2007. Despite often being very competitive, the northerners have never managed to defeat the Stars and Stripes in Aussie Rules. The following is a press release from AFL Canada's Bill Frampton, previewing the match from the Northwind's perspective, including the squad and some history of their past meetings. WFN believes that the match will see the debut of several new players, including Vancouver's young gun Scott Fleming, probably the first "graduate" of the successful North Delta Junior AFL. The lineup also features players from Ontario's 2006 debut club, the Central Blues.
Eddie McAvinchey reports from the SARFL on last year's season of solid progress and anticipation of further growth in 2007:
Scotland looks ahead to exciting 2007
by Eddie McAvinchey of SARFL
With Collingwood forming a sister relationship with the Glasgow Magpies (formerly Glasgow Redbacks) the Scottish Australian Football League (SARFL) has started the year with a blast and is looking forward to a lively 2007. The 2006 season proved a bit of a watershed for the game in Scotland, with an expanded 5-team league structure, a further successful staging of the pre-season Scottish Cup, and the entrance of a new, second team in Glasgow.
Footy in India has been in the limelight of late, with Brian Dixon’s world tour including a stopover in that country. Some of his achievements were detailed in Dixon rebooting footy in India, and WFN was recently lucky enough to have caught up with Brian to have a chat about his trip. We also investigated two lesser known football links in the world’s second largest country - an Indian player who embraced the game in Europe, and a popular novel exploring Indian-Australian links, with Aussie Rules an interesting feature.
The inaugural Bermuda Australian Rules Football Championships scheduled for April have been cancelled, or at least postponed until further notice. The event aimed to bring together club sides from all over the world, but most likely North American and European teams, in an international carnvial of Australian Football. Organisers hope to re-schedule for later, but 2008 is looking like the earliest date.
In two tremendous announcements for international footy, AFL South Africa are now mentioning the possibility of hundreds of thousands of players, and there is confirmation that an elite Australian under age side will play a full Test match against the Africans in April - as far as we know the first such Australian Football international featuring a true Australian representative side.
A possible exception has been brought to our attention - an invitational juniors match between Australia and PNG in Adelaide in 1977, as mentioned here). We've also been told by reader John Milton that there were age concessions, with the Aussies under 17s and PNG under 19s, with the taller Australians getting up in a close one. Similar concessions are likely this time around.
Funding for Australian Football is always a contentious subject, with literally thousands of clubs across Australia and the world fighting for a "piece of the pie", either directly or through support for their league. This applies to AFL clubs, state leagues, amateurs, country and other grass-roots programs. This is equally true of international interests, but for supporters of the game's spread, it can be argued that overseas concerns should in some cases surpass that of Aussie regions, primarily base on an argument of potential. That case may not stand up so well according to many Australian clubs, especially with an already heavy focus on Queensland and New South Wales and not so much to other states.
It's in that context that funding is decided. In 2006 the AFL put several new systems in place to deal with the game internationally. A lot of the programs sound encouraging and are based on logical arguments. There have also been significant announcements regarding footy in South Africa. On the other hand there have been quiet grumbles of dissatisfaction and concerns that the African gains could come at the expense of other nations. We look at all these issues and talk to some of the leagues about their funding in 2006 and hopes for 2007.