The following article from Kavisha Di Pietro on the AFL Players website www.aflplayers.com.au explores the journey of another young Sudanese footballer making his way onto an AFL list and hoping to emulate the deeds of Aliir Aliir and Majak Daw.
Western Bulldogs draftee Buku Khamis’ memories of his childhood in South Sudan are hazy.
He can recall how the sand would burn his feet as he played outside in the heat but he doesn’t remember much more from back home.
The 18-year-old was only six when he migrated to Australia with his parents and siblings.
His journey across the globe would be his first time on a plane.
“I don’t remember too much from living there but I do remember coming on the plane to Australia not knowing where we were going or what was going on,” he told AFLPlayers.com.au during his first AFL pre-season.
Recently, an interesting football conversation commenced nearby. It involved the concept of whether or not scoring should be removed from games of AFL Masters to reduce the amount of aggressive competiveness amongst players whose glory days are behind them and should possibly just be playing for fun.
Footy is many things to many people. Therefore, there will not be a consensus on whether this (at this stage unofficial) idea has merit. But what is compelling is the link between this potential expectation for our oldest players and the arguments for our youngest players – kids.
For a moment, let’s assume that the idea has merit and one day we have AFL Masters playing for no scores – just enjoyment. We have already seen AFL Victoria introduce no scores for junior grades from the 2015 season where grades up to Under 10 would play with no scores and develop “an enjoyment philosophy rather than a winning philosophy’’ (Herald Sun, 2014). Since then most states and territories have more or less adopted the same policies.
You start by heading north from Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, towards the border with China. Eventually you link up with the Karakorum Highway, passing through never ending vistas of amazing mountain scenery. It isn’t the Himalayas, but a magical land in its own right. Then you arrive at the village of Gilgit Baltistan.
Here, Saliha Baig Jaturi is running Aussie Rules footy clinics. Not only does she face the challenges of being a woman in a Muslim country, where particular expectations on women can restrict what a woman can do, she is also selling Australia’s national game to kids and older villagers who know little or nothing about the game.
The other big challenge is snow. The mountains on the Pakistan/China border zone rank amongst the highest in the world and have the cold to prove it.
Half way through the AFL off-season and fans are now counting down to the 2019 season. Media is reporting on how teams have recovered from their breaks. Injury lists are being finalised to get players back for Round One. New recruits are being paraded on the training tracks in their new colours and teams are bringing them into their revised game plans – or building game plans around them.
It is an exciting time, but the best part is that supporters of 18 teams know that there is a new dawn arriving with – potentially – greatness around the corner. A premiership this year might be the start of something greater – a dynasty, perhaps.
The following is a purely personal point of view about which clubs might be on the cusp of something great. By great I am referring to sustained success. Hawthorn claimed three flags from four grand finals between 2012 and 2015. Before that, Geelong took three flags from 2007 to 2011 from four grand finals. Sydney and West Coast dominated 2005/6 and the Brisbane Lions also had four grand finals for three flags between 2001 and 2004.
Round 12 was played in the NTFL last weekend, the first round back after the Christmas/New Year break. Whilst fans were delighted to see the footy back again, the round has seen a tightening of ladder positions with top spot, top five and wooden spoon well and truly undecided and set for big finishes from all clubs over the remaining six rounds.
The Southern Districts Crocs are locked in a battle with the Nightcliff Tigers for top spot, both teams on ten wins. In third place, four games behind the leaders, the Darwin Buffaloes sit level with Waratah. Just outside the five on five wins are Palmerston, followed by the Tiwi Bombers on four wins and Wanderers on three.
On Saturday, the Tigers downed the Buffaloes by 14 points. The teams kept up a tight match to three-quarter time, with the final quarter set for one of the other side to break the game open. However, neither team goaled in the last quarter leaving the Tigers victors.
The AFL's All Australian team was announced back in September this year. State of Origin football is in a long hiatus - but theoretical State teams are announced each year - a number of media outlets still name theoretical state teams. They generally take in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia as well as an Allies team (NT, Tasmania, ACT, Queensland and NSW).
But what about the rest of the worldω If the Rest of the World were to play against any of the teams above, what is the best team they could musterω We have determined eligibility for our theoretical world selection along the line of the International Cup eligibility rules and we have named the 2018 World Team (so this does not include foreign born but Australian raised players).
This year we have again named Irishman Zach Tuohy as captain of the team after another sucessful year at Geelong where he was a key part of the Cat's defence and featuring in finals footy.
As with the International Cup the coach can be Australian but should have a strong link with international football. This year we have again selected David Lake the coach of the PNG Mosquitoes and assistant coach of the Brisbane Lions AFLW team. Lake led the Mozzies to their second consecutive International Cup title in 2017.
The work and passion of Mohammed Hashem and his Auskick in Egypt initiative was at risk of falling away. But the Australian Embassy in Cairo stepped in and suddenly there are Australian Rules footys in Egypt. Mo Hash’s dream can now continue. Following is his account of what it has taken to grow the game in a part of the world that previously seemed worlds away from the Aussie Rules heartlands.
“Auskick in Egypt was an initiative started by myself at three distinct attractive sports facilities in Cairo and one out of Cairo in New Valley Governorate. The idea was to give children aged 5-12 the opportunity to learn about Australian culture through playing AFL. We have not charged any of the participants for any of the programs.”
Things were challenging early on for Auskick in Egypt, as Mo explained. “I was only using grid iron balls and whatever else I could find in the sports facilities. We used a combination of witches hats, soccer balls and the mentioned grid iron balls where possible.”
Richmond star Bachar Houli has been joined by Essendon speedster Adam Saad and former Saint, Ahmed Saad, to lead a group of Muslim boys on a football and cultural journey to the United Arab Emirates – home of the AFL Middle East – as part of the Bachar Houli Academy initiative to develop youth.
The travelling party were based in the capital city of Abu Dhabi, enjoying training sessions, some sightseeing and cultural experiences amid the overall objectives of developing youth through a leadership course.
Houli has long been working with Muslim youth with his academy back in Australia, but Adam Saad, the Essendon speedster, happily donated his own time to be a part of the trip to the UAE. Former St Kilda footballer, Ahmed Saad, was also there and has been instrumental recently in getting football gear to Auskick clinics in Egypt in his role within the AFL Diversity Unit.
The following article by Kevin O’Brien from the Irish sporting website, The 42, looks closely at the journey of Derry’s Gaelic star of the 80’s and 90’s, Dermot McNicholl. His time at the St Kilda football club in the VFL gives great insight to the early days of the movement to recruit Irish talent to the VFL/AFL system.
Following is an excerpt from the original story.
'Our pre-seasons were brutal. I’ve never gone through anything like it in my life'
Derry legend Dermot McNicholl discusses his stint in the AFL, the Oak Leafers’ All-Ireland victory 25 years ago and the rise in GAA stars heading Down Under.
“And St Kilda joined the international recruiting race, taking a punt on Dermot McNicholl, who has been brought to Australia by VFA club Prahran…St Kilda will bide its time with McNicholl, recognised as the best player in Gaelic football…St Kilda targeted McNicholl because of his pace and toughness and believes he could become a highly skilled player.”
The new AFL Switzerland competition was only completed back in November, but already the Basel Dragons have galloped headlong into 2019 with a new playing strip ready to go. Footy in Switzerland has seen a massive regeneration, heavily driven by the Winterthur Lions, and culminating in November’s first intra-national Swiss tournament.
Whilst the Geneva Jets won the event, it is the Basel Dragons working to ensure that 2019 is bigger, better and more successful for them.
Colombia’s Bogota Bulldogs have used Christmas Day wisely to announce another huge initiative in South American footy. Their gift is the announcement of the inaugural battle of the Bulldogs when the USAFL’s Denver Bulldogs from Colorado will travel to Bogota next year.
The scheduled match on May 18th will see the Bogota Bulldogs host the Denver Bulldogs in a genuine battle of the Americas. The Bogota team, and the greater Colombia AFL, have grown quickly over the past couple of years from a “kick in the park” entity to a three team national Colombian competition that is now attracting international teams.
The match will feature a full size competition – 18 per team – in an event that is quoted as a game that “will raise the quality of South American footy forever”.
The young girl positioned herself behind the goalposts as usual. She did this at every training session to watch her brothers. On the field the coach barked orders and the players continued another set of sprints, sweat pouring from their brows, but knowing this was the last training session before the Christmas break.
Hannah watched the players. She watched them complete their handpassing drills every training night. She watched the kicking drills. She watched the tackling, the marking, everything. Tonight a tear ran down her cheek when she wished that maybe Santa might one day grant her the chance to play her favourite game. Maybe this Christmas?
As she sat watching, her cheeks still red from her gentle weeping, the coach turned around and faced her. Hannah was unsure why or what had happened. Maybe something was going on behind her. But the coach started motioning for her to come out onto the field.