This coming Sunday, the Tokyo Goannas will contest the 2010 Japan AFL Grand Final against the newest club in Japanese football, the Nagoya Redbacks. It is the Redbacks' first Grand Final appearance in just their second JAFL season.
Read on for a match preview, courtesy of Nagoya's Ashley James.
Two weeks ago the Brisbane Lions were defeated by the Melbourne Demons in the AFL clash in Shanghai for the Kaspersky Cup - see Jurrah lights up China match. The curtain raiser, also at Jiangwan Stadium, saw a Japanese Under 21 side take on China in a 9-a-side match. It was a great opportunity for the Japanese to give their younger players a taste of travel for the Samurai, whilst giving AFL China a chance to begin building a national squad.
Even though it was a developmental list it was not surprising that Japan ran away with the match. Wingman Ohashi provided the opening goal, and Samurais midfielders led by Tada, Nakamura, and Ichinose dominated the centre. Centre half forward Ken Sato, who spent 6 weeks at Box Hill North in Victoria as a scholarship player this year, was unstoppable ending up with 8 marks and 3 goals. Hiroki Ichinose also added 3 goals to his superb with 20 disposals. For China the highlight must have been the third quarter goal to Shao Lei.
Unfortunately Brisbane has not renewed the rookie listing for young Japanese-Australian Sean Yoshiura. The history of dropped rookies means it seems unlikely that the 19 year old will be picked up by another AFL club in the near future, and will have to prove himself at state league level to get another AFL chance.
Yoshiura, who was born and initially raised in Japan, was rookie listed at the end of 2009. Ideally he would have become a role model for Asian-Australian players and indeed internationals such as those playing in AFL Japan.
The Dubai Heat continue to build on their reputation as a powerhouse football club, winning their third consecutive Asian Championships. Dubai overcame Singapore in the final, with Hong Kong too strong for Indonesia in the third place playoff. Whilst every team present bar Macau managed to win at least one match, ultimately the previous winners of the tournament who were again participating (Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong) remained in a class of their own.
A fast finishing Melbourne yesterday defeated Brisbane in the Shanghai Showdown. The Dees trailed by as much as 29 points in the final term, but managed to win the match with the last kick of the game, off the boot of Liam Jurrah. This took his tally to five goals and helped earn him Best on Ground.
The match was played out in front of 7,000 fans at Jiangwan Stadium, less than a quarter of the stadium's capacity, and the empty seats were clearly evident on television. An AFL report prior to the match suggested a possible television audience of 30 million. If that many tuned in for the contest it would be less than 3 percent of China's population but more than Australia's whole population. The AFL Grand Final draws around 2.5 million viewers in Australia (12% of population); to reach a total number that is twelve times that amount for a first match on Chinese soil would be quite impressive.
Overall the AFL was happy with the experiment, with David Matthews quoted saying, "Today’s match was a fantastic exhibition of Australian Football in front of a very enthusiastic and big crowd which exceeded our expectations. There’s no doubt we would play another game in China and we will work with our partners and AFL clubs to make that happen.”
Melbourne 12.12 (84) defeated Brisbane Lions 11.13 (79)
AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, head of the AFL Commission and the man who fast-tracked the entry of the Gold Coast and GWS clubs, is in China as part of the AFL's promotion of the sport ahead of the Kaspersky Cup between Brisbane and Melbourne. Fitzpatrick said that "Our game is 150 years old but this Sunday we will play our first ever match here in Shanghai," he said. "To quote an old Chinese proverb: 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step'. Tomorrow we take that step."
Various clinics have been held with school children and an AFL talent combine. Some photos of the events so far can be seen here.
Sri Lankan English-language newspaper The Daily Mirror is reporting that a group of AFL officials recently met with the country's Minister of Internal Trade & Cooperatives, Mr Johsnton Fernando. The meeting, which was arranged by Manel Dharmakeerthie, discussed how best to promote Australian Football in Sri Lanka.
Dharmakeerthie is known in South Asia for his involvement with the Chinese sport of Wushu. He is now working closely with Milton Amarasinghe, a former Director General of Sports, to develop Australian Football in Sri Lanka. Their first aim is a tournament to be held in 2011. Fernando was supportive of their plans, and has agreed to offer, "his fullest support to develop footy (in Sri Lanka)."
Several current and former AFL players were also present at the meeting, including the AFL's new International Ambassador, Brett Kirk. The players are in Sri Lanka to learn more about that country's indigenous Vadda people and their place in Sri Lankan society, in an attempt to assist Australia's own indigenous communities upon their return.
An exciting feature of the Kaspersky Cup AFL match between Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions is that China will take on a development squad from Japan in the curtain raiser. It's fair to say there's long been a strong rivalry between these two countries and not only does the proximity give China an obvious local opponent, it also could help give the Japanese league a boost.
Japan are sending an Under 21 team for the match, which should provide a good 9-a-side contest. Japan's full squad are ranked 14th in our unofficial world rankings, with China notionally one spot ahead, but not yet playing enough games to qualify. The Samurai's are bringing 13 players and 5 officials. China's players will be roughly 50-50 from Beijing and Shanghai.
Two days prior to the match, which is part of the World Expo, the AFL will stage its first ever "Asia Combine" (using the new description the AFL is using for draft camp style sessions). This will be held at Shanghai University of Sport (very close to Jiangwan Stadium) and will have a number of staff present with AFL high performance experience. There will be testing of athletes and a number of drills and activities aimed at gaining further experience in Australian Football. All participants of the curtain raiser match have been encouraged to attend.
The Melbourne Football Club will embark on a 14-day tour of China, highlighted by The Kaspersky Cup Shanghai Showdown match between The Demons and the Brisbane Lions at Jiangwan Stadium on Sunday.
The Club will depart Melbourne on Sunday October 10 returning on Saturday 23. The touring party of 130 includes the full playing list, football department and all administration staff. This is believed to be the biggest ever overseas trip conducted by an AFL club. Melbourne’s key destinations include Moganshan, Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.
Woodside Energy, one of Australia’s major energy exporters to Asia, has agreed to become a major sponsor of the Australian Football League’s first ever match in China. Woodside will be an associate partner of the Kaspersky Cup, AFL Shanghai Showdown between Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions, which will be played at the Jiangwan Sports Centre in Shanghai on Sunday, October 17.
Woodside Senior Vice President, Corporate, Tina Thomas, said the match provided an ideal opportunity to showcase the company’s support for Australian football in one of its major customer countries. Since 2006 Woodside has been exporting liquefied natural gas to China from the North West Shelf Venture under a 25-year contract.
The company, which has an office in Beijing, is in discussions with Chinese customers about potential supplies from Woodside’s wider portfolio of projects and developments.