With the snow melting and the sun slowly edging out in Eastern Europe, the Czech, Austrian and Croatian Aussie rules clubs are dusting off the footy for what hopefully may be their first structured season. The three relatively new sides are planning a three-way series this year, beginning when the Vienna Dingos host the Zagreb Giants and Czech Lions in May. While the Czech and Viennese sides have played a few games to date, the Zagreb Giants will (hopefully) make their debut this year, after a successful Australia Day party netted a number of new squad members. The Giants are to host the first Croatia Open in July (logo at left).
Michito Sakaki, the Japanese footballer who played for Essendon in their exhibition game against Sydney earlier in the year, has kicked a goal in only his second match, playing for Wodonga Raiders in the Ovens & Murray Football League (reported by WFN on March 23, Michito goes semi-pro in Australia). He has started the season slowly but has shown some promise at this very early stage of his Aussie career.
AFL club Carlton had a bad night at Telstra Dome, going down to the emerging Hawthorn team by 32 points. The Blues have struggled for several years but have been more competitive in 2006, as they were again on Friday night against their fellow Melbourne-based club, trailing 4.6 (30) to 6.4 (40) at half time. The match also saw Irishman Setanta O'hAilpin play his second senior game for the Blues and it was hoped he would show marked improvement from 2005, but in what may be a major setback for his AFL aspirations, the tall forward struggled throughout the match.
Returning after a period of mourning in 2005 with a couple of low key games and combining with Kansas city at the 2005 Nationals, Louisville Football Club make their second big step back into footy in 2006. Their season kicking off this weekend hosting the Founder’s Thunder Cup 2006 Tournament in memory of club founder John Harrell.
After two thrilling draws, Australia defeated Ireland 2.6.15 (45) to 1.6.6 (30) in the deciding Test in Fremantle on 19th April 2006. It was the first series win to Australia in 4 years after Ireland had won in 03, 04 and 05.
Ireland's young hurling champion turned AFL player, Setanta O'hAilpin is set to return to the Carlton line up on Friday night against Hawthorn at the Telstra Dome. "Carlos" made his debut in 2005 when he was lifted from the Blues' International Rookie list, but was used sparingly in his only game, though he did goal with his first kick in the AFL.
The Dublin Demons have won another pre-season tournament, this time the Irish leagues warm-up series the Woolshed Super 10s. The series was interrupted by poor weather this year, but that is something Ireland expects and organisers shuffled the draw to ensure all sides got a good spread of games and a winner was found. New club South Dublin weren't quite ready for the Super 10s but are set to go for the main season.
As described by the Irish national broadcaster, RTE, this year's under-17 series has been a "super advertisement for International Rules football" with the Irish and Australian lads fighting out two draws in 4 days. Ireland's ability to find the net has kept them in it despite Australia's greater number of "overs". But in other less positive news Brisbane's Irish recruit has begun to feel the pull of home, and the seniors International Rules series looks like being scaled back.
The new Irish Aussie Rules season starts soon and amongst the six teams competing for glory will be the South Dublin Swans. Alas this isn't quite a boost in the number of clubs in Ireland, as South Dublin is really a fresh start for the Dublin Eagles, a solid team but which carried some baggage from seasons past. Thanks to some help from the Sydney Swans the new club is kitted out and ready to go for round 1.
Australian Football League boss Andrew Demetriou is scheduled to fly to Dubai in May in an attempt to secure a pre-season match in the United Arab Emirates for early 2007. Collingwood versus Adelaide was mooted for earlier this year (see AFL eyes several international games in 2005/06) but it fell through. With a large itinerant population it's unlikely Aussie Rules will develop at grass-roots level any time soon in the region, with the current plans more likely to revolve around sponsorship dollars, with major internationals such as the Magpies' sponsor Emirates Airlines based there.
British power club the West London Wildcats last weekend visited Barcelona for a match against Catalan 2005 champions Belfry Valls. The match was held at La Taixoneras Rubgy Field, with the Wildcats running out 76-point winners, 16.9.105 to Valls 3.11.29. A good time was had by all, as is the tradition on the increaingly regular BARFL preseason tour matches and the Catalan players came out of the match feeling they'd learnt a great deal through playing against the experienced Australians of the Wildcats squad.
The Farum Cats are well known for their junior development of Aussie Rules. A significant part of that junior development are their tours to Australia which take place every three years. Their 2006 tour has just begun ...