The all-important draw for the 10th Asian Australian Football Championships in Kuala Lumpur on 5th September took place at the Australian Ambassador's residence on 27th August.
Group A consists of title holders Dubai Heat, hosts Malaysian Warriors, three-time winners Hong Kong Dragons, two-time winners Jakarta Bintangs and Thailand Tigers.
Group B consists of three-time winners Singapore Wombats, three-times runners-up Bali Geckoes, Lao Elephants, China Reds and Vietnam Swans.
Each team plays the others in their Group with the top two in each group progressing to the semi-finals, the winners of which play off in the Grand Final.
Whilst weather, injuries and depth of fitness within the squads are always a factor in an event of this nature, the teams in Group A promise intense competition, with all five harbouring realistic expectations of a strong showing.
On known form, Singapore and Bali look the likely semi-finalists in Group B.
A big day is promised on September 5th at the Royal Selangor Polo Club with the action kicking off from 8.30am and the final being contested at 4.20pm.
In addition to the main games there will be a Junior Under 18 competition as well as Auskick.
The Jakarta Bintangs stunned the Bali Geckoes and reinforced their Asian Championship prospects by defeating the Bali Beckos by 5 goals on home turf for the first time in 4 years at Kuta on August 15th.
A minutes' silence preceded the match - dedicated to Craig Senger and others lost to us in similar circumstances. It was a reminder to live every day as though it was your last.
Fitting, because that was how the Bintangs played. From the opening tap to the final siren the Bintangs were always in control. Led in dazzling fashion by Dave "Butcher" Edwards who kicked a club record 12 goals, the Bintangs held sway at every change.
The game strategy was simple, get the ball quickly to the big fellow down forward and he would do the rest. And with Matt Jolly and Chris Bandy winning the ball with regularity in the midfield, and with Bali captain Peter Muir well held, contested possession was achieved with sufficient regularity to build a match winning lead by half time.
While Bali managed to slow the momentum in the last two quarters, the result was never in doubt. A trademark Marzio Da Rae dropkick sealed the win just before the siren.
The Geckos have played in the Grand Final of the Asian Championships in two of the last three years, whilst the Bintangs have had a number of disappointing years since their glory years early in the millennium.
Possibly, the positions may be reversed in this year’s edition of the Asian Championships.
The Asian Championships is the goal of all teams in the Asian region. Being played in tropical conditions, subject to vagaries of weather and in a lightning premiership type format, the day is a true test of stamina, team management and above all, depth.
Yet, for all the elements of luck that can play a part with the draw, with injuries and other factors, usually the best side wins.
Whilst many internationals are played during the year, and nearly all clubs have some sort of intra-club domestic competition, like racehorses aiming at the Melbourne Cup, it is the Asian Championships that all conditioning is aimed towards.
This year is the 10th edition of the Championships - Hong Kong and Singapore have won 3 each, Indonesia (as a combined Jakarta-Bali side many years ago) 2, and Dubai 1.
Coinncidentally it is the 10th year of the Malaysian Warriors Football Club and they will be hosting the Championships on Saturday, 5th September at the Royal Selangor Polo Club, situated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
On a day where bigger issues overwhelmed the football, the Vietnam Swans defeated the Laos Elephants by 4 points in a important warm-up game for the upcoming Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur.
Craig Senger had been a player with the Jakarta Bintangs Football Club and tragically lost his life in the recent Jakarta bombings of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels.
Prior to the match, the Australian Ambassador, the Deputy / Minister Counsellor from the Indonesian Embassy and Dave Kainey (“Official Legend” of the Jakarta Bintangs and former Swans President) addressed all players and spectators. A minute's silence was observed.
On 7th August, 1858 Melbourne Grammar played Scotch College in Richmond Park in what is generally regarded as the first official Australian football match ever played.
On 8th August, 2009, 151 years later, almost to the day, history was created when the under-18 St John’s School Malaysian Warriors took on the Australian International School Malaysia and scored a meritorious victory, winning 17.6.108 to 5.6.36.
This will become the day every year that future Malaysian teams commemorate the first game of Australian Rules Football played, and won, by a team of indigenous Malaysians.
The Pearl River delta region in southern China is famous for two small territories controlled by Europeans until very recently. The larger city of Hong Kong was administered by the British until the closing years of the twentieth century, whilst across the bay the Portuguese maintained their outpost of Macau.
Macau is a small, densely-populated city of about half a million inhabitants, best-known for being the Las Vegas of Asia.
The Hong Kong Dragons have been playing footy since the early 1990s, with a long history of being a power in the Asian footy scene. In Macau however, the presence of Australian rules was restricted to the occasional locally-based player commuting across the water to play in Hong Kong.
This year, this is set to change with the beginnings of Auskick and school footy in Macau.
The pinnacle of the Asian Football season is the Asian Championships, this year to held in Kuala Lumpur at the Selangor Polo Club on 5th September.
The Malaysian Warriors are hosting this prestigious tournament for only the second time in commemoration of their 10th year of existence.
Teams participating include the hosts Malaysian Warriors, current title holder Dubai Heat, powerhouses Singapore, Hong Kong and Bali, as well as regular contenders Jakarta, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and the China Reds.
It is expected that the format will be two groups of five teams each playing each other once with the top two teams in each group playing off in cross-over semi-finals, with the two winners playing off in the Grand Final.
The Asian Championships get bigger each year and this year sees the second edition of a Junior Championship which will feature a significant number of Asian-born players. Teams from Jakarta (last year’s winner), Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore are expected to participate.
There will also be an Auskick session for the younger kids, as well as full catering and plenty of entertainment.
As always, it will be a huge day and all Malaysian footy followers are urged to get to the ground. Play starts at 10.00am
Well known Jakarta Bintang, Craig Senger tragically lost his life in the recent bombing of the Hotel Marriott in Jakarta. All football followers in Asia have been greatly saddened by this news, and condolences have flowed to the Bintangs, his wife and family.
To help celebrate Craig's life, the Vietnam Swans will play a memorial match against the Lao Elephants on Saturday 8th August in Hanoi honouring Craig and other victims of the Jakarta Bombings.
To recognise the positive impact Craig had in his life on others, his wife Kate has set up the Craig Senger Indonesia Memorial Fund with the assistance of Westpac Bank.
The Beijing Bombers this year kicked off their first ever Metro League season, culminating on the weekend of July 18th with the DongCheng Demons finishing top of the table and taking the 2009 title.
The Beijing AFL's spring season saw teams - Dongcheng, the AZ Chaoyang Cats and the Santa Fe Saints - playing each other twice over three rounds, each side having one host round where they played both rival teams.
Over forty footballers pulled on the boots over the course of the three rounds, including around a dozen local Chinese players. Following the successful first-up season, an autumn league will be held as well this year, with matches on August 15, September 19 and October 10.
Last year saw the creation of the Lao Elephants, the first-ever Australian football club in the Lao PDR. The Phants, quickly famous worldwide for their distinctive pink and grey jumpers, impressed on the Asian footy circuit in 2008, putting in a strong showing at the Asian Championships and wining the Indochina Cup in Phnom Penh.
The Lao Elephants currently have around thirty players on their list, including around twenty-five expats from Australia, the USA and Great Britain, plus four or five Lao nationals.
However, the squad is spread across a wide geographical area, with about 18 hours worth of bus trip separating the Northerners in Vientiane and Luang Prabang from the Southerners, who are mainly Australians working at the mines in the town of Sepon.
The first half of 2009 has seen a quiet patch for the Elephants as far as international touring is concerned, but in its place on May 23rd this year they held their first-ever domestic clash, with the Northerners traveling down the Mekong to take on the Southerners in the city of Savannakhet.