Players and officials in Australian Football leagues around the world are sometimes surprised to find that many Aussies don't realise their top national football code is played overseas. This has surely been changing in recent years with a reasonable amount of coverage given to the 2005 International Cup, the South African experiment, and quite a few media stories on the two Japanese players doing a pre-season with AFL club Essendon. Such an aim was indeed been part of worldfootynews.com's raison d'être. On a smaller scale than some of the national media reports was a recent article in the Loxton News, in South Australia's Riverland. One of their local players had a run in the Golden Gate AFL in San Fransisco and was enthusiastic about the experience.
The Strasbourg Black Devils have officially signed onto the AFL Germany for 2006, with the young French side to be the first from their nation to experience regular league play. Having recently changed their nickname from the 'Kangaroos' to avoid clashing with the Munich side, the Strasbourgeois will play most of their season at home, though their first match is a tough road trip to Berlin on the 1st of April. Also on the schedule are friendly matches against the North London Lions and Brussels Saints.
In further good news for the game in Papua New Guinea, the Brisbane Lions are exploring ways to further their role in the emerging footy country. Top Lions officials recently visited Australia's northern neighbour and were full of praise for the program. AFLPNG, the Australian Football League and Australian Volunteers International have also announced a new paid development position in the country, now open for applications, in the important role of National Operations Manager (a two year appointment).
Japan national team member Michito Sakaki has been named to line up for Essendon in their practise match against the Sydney Swans at North Sydney Oval this Friday. The Bombers have reportedly also recently signed two new major sponsors from the world of Japanese business and are considering a fan-base push into the Tokyo area, including Japanese language editions of their fanzine 'The Bomber' and an exhibtion match in 2007. Speaking to media outlet Sportal, Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy played down the chances of Sakaki being a regular fixture with the VFL Bendigo Bombers, although he was very positive of the progress this summer.
The Golden Gate AFL was one of the groundbreaking leagues in the US, amongst a handful to seriously commit to development of a local city league ahead of interstate travel. This lead is now being followed in other regions of the United States. Now the league has seen another leading spin-off with the development of possibly the first high school club in the US.
In a tremendous milestone for the development of international Australian Football, Japanese pair Tsuyoshi Kase (on the left in adjacent photo) and Michito Sakaki (to the right) will play for Bendigo in the Victorian Football League in 2006. This possibility has been suggested in several media reports recently but former head of the Japan AFL, Troy Beard, has confirmed that both players will be listed with Bendigo.
Canadian club, the Guelph Gargoyles will this August host the first Wellington Boot Invitational tournament, featuring three days of football with live bands and other entertainment between games. Organisers are hopeful of clubs from Japan, Ireland, Britain and the United States in addition to the Canadians in attendance.
Erin Phillips is an up-and-coming point guard in Australia's premier women's basketball league, the WNBL. A top player with Adelaide's national league side the Adelaide Fellas (a curious title based on their major sponsor - the club was formerly known as the Adelaide Lightning), Phillips is also known in South Australia for her football prowess and heritage. Her father is Greg Phillips, a legend at Port Adelaide in the SANFL in the era before the ever strengthening VFL expanded to become the AFL. Greg was a strong player for Port, and also played several seasons with Collingwood in the VFL. In all he played over 400 games of senior footy. His daughter was also a good footballer, competing with boys through her junior years, and playing in celebrity matches. Now she is set to join the world's best women's basketball league, the WNBA. In recent years we've seen former AFL players like Darren Bennett and Ben Graham helping promote Aussie Rules in the US, so maybe Erin will be another candidate, particularly in accelerating the game in the fledgling female market. Joel Shepherd sent us this report.
Plans to promote Australian football in China were boosted this week, with the announcement that a football 'ambassador' has been appointed to grow the game in the world's most-populous nation. Based in Melbourne's sister city Tianjin, the position has been created to pave the way for a visit by the Melbourne Football Club later in 2006.
During the 2005 International Cup the AFL's National Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan was a keen observer. While followers of the international development of Aussie Rules will know that junior numbers have only begun to grow in recent years and much work needs to be done, it may still be the case that the first international draftee (other than the Irish Gaelic/Hurling player experiment) may not be far away. The next big step forward was the invitation of international players to the AIS-AFL draft camp late last year. When can we expect to see an international draftee, how well did the overseas players stack up, and will the camp invites go out again in 2006? WFN asks all these questions and more in an interview with Kevin Sheehan, in which he foreshadows changes in the very near future to fast-track international youth development.
On a very chilly Australia Day, the New York Magpies were hosted by the Chelsea Pier Golf driving range (in Manhattan) in an event that signified the small but steadily growing steps of influence that Aussie Rules has on the United States - the Magpies bringing the game of Aussie Rules to their city and Ben Graham bringing his Aussie Rules big kicking leg to the NFL’s New York Jets. In addition to Graham's participation in the longest kick competition, he also showed willingness to take some training sessions for the Pies and attend games where possible, in a potential publicity coup for the Pies.