Over the past couple of decades traditional sports in Australia like Aussie Rules have found themselves in competition with new non-contact games like touch football (effectively touch Rugby). Social games such as that aren't likely to threaten the mass appeal of Australian football at the highest level, but they can undermine player numbers. As more people play them, particularly enjoying the flexibility of shorter games on weeknights in mixed sex environments, there can be a slow leak of numbers from traditional sports. Furthermore the players and their families become more familiar with related sports such as Rugby Union. The AFL's answer is Recreational Football.
The AFL's Community Development Manager Ed Biggs, who was also Tournament Director for the 2005 Australian Football International Cup, has responded to World Footy News' review of the event - see Opinion: Report card on IC2005 for our article. In his detailed email Ed also mentions the AFL's own review of the tournament and tantalisingly suggests that they hope to see as many as 20 nations competing in 2008.
Reports in last weekend's Sunday Times newspaper in the Western Australian capital Perth suggest that the grand finalists from this year's WAFL (Western Australian Football League, the state league feeding into the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers) will play an exhibition match in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) the weekend after this year's AFL grand final. Also mentioned in the article is the possibility of Perth hosting the 2008 International Cup, although this is still at the rumour stage.
Although it has its problems, South Africa is a wonderful place to visit - the spectacular high veldt, the wildlife, the people and culture of the Rainbow Nation, as they call themselves (a rainbow of different colours and cultures). But there is something more that can be gained than just the usual tourist experiences. Getting close to the people and really feeling the warmth of their welcome is something that can seem out of reach - but footy can get you there.
One of the keen spectators at the 2005 International Cup was Kevin Sheehan. He is well known to most Australian Rules fans as the expert clubs and media turn to for guidance when it comes to the annual AFL draft. There is no better person to talk to about the prospects of international players making the big league, and worldfootynews.com did just that during the Cup.
The Catalan Selection make their first appearance as a representative squad in September, taking on the 'Brazilian Anacondas' at Meubles Pinky Stadium in Valls (awaiting confirmation of date and times).
The Barassi International Youth Tournament board will soon announce major sponsorship for next year's event with strong rumours suggesting the VFL Club (Virtually Forgotten Legends) will be joining the Barassi Tournament Board in presenting the 'VFL Club Barassi Youth Tournament 2006'.
Papua New Guinea boasts the biggest Australian-football playing stocks of any nation outside Australia, but fell one step short at the 2005 International Cup. Their real strengths lie in their junior programs, with a burgeoning squadron of players in the age range of 12 to 16 years and 80% of their 2005 International Cup squad under 20 years of age. World Footy News spoke with Andrew Cadzow and Walter Yangomina about where the next step will take the footy scene in PNG. Pictured is 2005 Captain Rex Leka.
The AFL has quashed plans by the Geelong Cats to play a pre-season AFL match in New Zealand next year, making it unlikely that the club will undertake a training and development camp in the Pacific nation.
Some interesting results in July / August in the Asian region, which only adds to the excitement of the upcoming Asian Championships. Hong Kong proved their current title holder status by thumping Thailand in the Land of Smiles. Malaysia continued their solid run into September with a good win over Jakarta, and Bali further added to Jakarta’s woes a month later by crushing them in Jakarta.
Saturday August 20th saw the first of the Semi-Finals in the British Aussie Rules Football League (BARFL) on Clapham Common in London, UK, the Regents Park Lions defeating the Hammersmith Magpies in the Conference match and Wimbledon edging out North London in the Premiership division.
After following international footy for some time, and reporting on it in detail for over a year, it was a pleasure to meet so many people I have dealt with by email, online forums and phone. It was also great to see the Cup in the flesh having been unable to attend the inaugural 2002 event.
So many people have expressed opinions, mostly positive but some negative, about the Cup and its role in football and whether the AFL should do more. Having read such comments here and elsewhere, and seen the tournament first hand, and debated and discussed the issues for some time now, including during the event with many other international footy supporters, I thought it would be a good opportunity to offer my own opinions about the 2005 Cup - hopefully well-founded thoughts but nevertheless just personal opinions.