The current AZAFL season has been another successful one already and we are only in May. Some US teams are just running out for their first kick. The six team AZAFL have completed their ten round home and away season, finals and grand final and managed to throw their AZAFL World Invitational Metro Footy Championship Tournament in the mix back in February.
Further to our recent stories on the success of Papua New Guniea's star youngsters at the Queensland U16 Country Championships and Queensland State U16 Championships, AFL PNG have issued a press release detailing their very encouraging results being achieved at junior and senior level in Australian Football. We don't normally publish entire press releases verbatim, but this excellent report from Scott Reid deserves a full read.
Highlights include Stanis Susuve's selection for the Queensland Scorpions, the DeLaSalle Scholarship and a summary of the seven Papuans now playing senior footy in the Sunshine state's leagues. AFL Queensland Talent Manager Mark Browning suggests higher honours await several of the under 16s players and AFL PNG CEO Andrew Cadzow believes PNG is now recognised as the emerging top talent zone outside of Australia, including Ireland.
The ramifications for the world growth of Australian Football are not yet clear. The rapidly accelerating strength of PNG may discourage other countries and if AFL clubs focus more on PNG than other nations may feel neglected. However, as Papuans make their way into the Aussie football system there will be wider recognition of the game's international potential, and this may well see increased support. Time will tell but for supporters of footy spreading beyond Australia's shores it is certainly heartening to see impressive results starting to flow. And when a few "home grown" Papuans do make the big time, footy will take off in Australia's northern neighbour.
The Melbourne Football Club and Melbourne City Council have made the headlines a few times in the last six months with their program to export Australian rules football to China via the sister-city relationship between Melbourne and Tianjin. Early this year Tom Mattessi was named as the first 'Ambassador' of footy to leave for China as part of the sister-city deal - WFN caught up with him to talk about progress so far, the immediate start-up plans and where the project could lead.
It was reported that the AFL will change the regulations after the 2006 AFL draft with respect to the age of recruits from Ireland to appease the fears of the GAA that their game will be stripped of some of their best young talent. Another young Irish talent Martin Clarke is the latest name to be linked with an AFL club.
The third Barassi Youth Tournament will be held in Canberra from 30 September to 7 October 2006 with teams likely to come from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, the United States of America playing teams from Darwin, the Kimberley and Australian Capital Territory.
Next month the International Youth Tournament named after AFL Legend Ron Barassi will host a Dinner to celebrate the launch of the 2006 Tournament.
The Melbourne Football Club's radical decision to develop the game in China looks set to take its highest profile step forward in October 2006 when they are expected to travel to Asia's giant to conduct clinics and play an exhibition match. This has been reported previously on WFN as likely but has now firmed considerably. Inspired by the City of Melbourne's sister-city relationship with Tianjin, a massive area of 10 million people (yet dwarfed by nearby Beijing, with over 15 million in its municipality), the plans include a key component missing from the one-off VFL international sorties of the 1980s. Rather than fly in and fly out, the Demons are already laying the groundwork and firmly intend to build their profile and economic links through a development program that includes demonstration matches and Auskick clinics. This foresight may not yield success in the next few years, but in the longer term if a genuine following develops then the benefits to the AFL club could be enormous. Excitingly, the International Cup is also now being mentioned more often in official circles.
The city of Mingora, in the Swat Valley in North-West Pakistan, will this June play host to a tournament between 4 school and college-based teams. The tournament is being held by the Tanzeem-e-Insidad-e-Manashyiate organisation (TIM), a group combating drug use through seminars, medical centres and sporting tournaments.
Aussie Rules footy got its first start in Canada in the Ontario province. The number of clubs there has regularly grown and it is home to one of the most stable Australian Football leagues outside of Australia. However changes are underway for the 2006 season, with new club the Central Blues a positive sign but concerns whether a new metro-style league will be a success.
Four Papua New Guinea youngsters were selected for the squad to represent the Country Kookaburras in the Queensland Under 16 Championships after the PNG lads dominated the recent Queensland Country Championships (see Binatangs dominate Queensland Country Championships). The Kookas have just completed a great 2006 series at O’Callaghan Park, Zillmere, making the grand final where they lost to the Northern Raiders. In terrific news for the international spread of the game, three of the PNG boys were star performers throughout the tournament, and one has made it through to Queensland's state under 16 squad.
In 1998, I had been living in the US for four years and I started to hear rumblings of footy being played around my new home of Madison, WI. I thought: “Great, I can go down and watch some footy.” I love watching footy and I don’t much care if it is an AFL Grand Final or a game between two of the Melbourne Uni residential colleges. The reality of course was that in 1998 there was barely enough people to play a game let alone have some left over to watch. With only East Ringwood U9 Thirds on my footy resume, I became a player for the Milwaukee Bombers and the Baltimore-Washington Eagles, an assistant coach, and a club and league administrator. However, yesterday, some eight years later, my dream came true.
The Hamilton Wildcats, one the clubs in Canada's biggest footy league, the Ontario AFL, recently had a good write up about them in their local press, The Hamilton Spectator. Wildcats President Charles Thompson is hopeful the coverage will help them recruit a few new players and maybe even supporters. The reporter does a good job of describing the level of awareness of the sport in North America, with its rise in profile through marketng and the notorious Jacko adverts of the 1980s.
The GAA news website Hoganstand reports Ireland has selected its manager (coach) for this years International Rules Series. The job has gone to Sean Boylan, who in a reign to rival that of the Essendon and Australia coach Kevin Sheedy, guided power Gaelic football county, Meath, from 1982 to 2005. Indeed in the era of modern football codes it would be difficult to find two coaches worldwide who could compare with single club reigns like Boylan's 23 years with Meath and Sheedy with his 25 years at Essendon. Yet to be built floodlighting should also add a new dimension to the series for the Irish, and the two countries have confirmed that the series will continue on an annual basis for the next two years (2006 and 2007).