While the Essendon Bombers came from behind for a famous victory over the Collingwood Magpies at the MCG, Australian rules football resumed in Japan with the commencement of the JAFL 2009 season.
The Nagoya Redbacks hosted the reigning premiers, the Tokyo Goannas, on Australia’s most revered occasion on the national calendar, ANZAC Day 25th April. The Goannas showed their class in wet and difficult conditions with a dominant 10 goals to 2 first half before running out 13.9 (87) to 5.6 (36) victors. The Redbacks, playing their first game as part of the JAFL, valiantly fought out the game, matching the Goannas for goals in the second half. They were brave in defeat, facing a more experienced and hardened outfit that also had a significant number advantage on the bench.
Two games were played on Sunday 26th April. The 2008 runners-up, the Eastern Hawks, had winners all over the ground as they thumped the Tokyo Leopards 25.18 (168) to 3.7 (26). The first quarter was marred only by inaccuracy in front of goals for the Hawks, although this improved over the course of the game. The Hawks showed a ruthless edge in kicking 9 goals in the final quarter to ensure a healthy percentage. The young Leopards battled hard throughout but lacked the skills and experience to match their opponents.
The final match of the round saw the Osaka Dingoes travel to Tokyo to play the Komazawa Magpies. After an even first half that saw the straight kicking of the Magpies take a 9 point lead into the long break, the more experienced Dingoes lifted their work rate, scoring 10 goals to 1 in the second half to run out 49 point winners, 14.15 (99) to 7.8 (50). First-gamer Sato was superb up forward for the Magpies with 3 first half goals, while the load was evenly spread by the Dingoes with 5 players kicking two goals apiece.
The Senshu University Powers had the bye this round.
Ed: WFN welcomes Roy Obal to our team of correspondents. An Aussie living in Japan as an English teacher, Roy will be reporting on the goings-on in the Japan AFL.
The boys and girls from the Malaysian Warrior Auskick program recently won the Gaelic football competition of the South East Asian Gaelic games, despite not having played the game before.
The games were run by the Orang Eire Gaelic team and held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 9th. The Malaysian Warriors Auskick team beat the Malaysian Gaelic team in their first game, then drew with Singapore to make the final. In the final, the whole squad, aged from 6 to 11 and including boys and girls, played well as a team to win.
Due to relatively low numbers of children for both Auskick and Gaelic, the clubs have worked together to create more opportunities for games and in the process showing the benefit of team sports. The Warriors Auskick program aims to give Australian children the chance to continue Australian rules whilst abroad and encourages locals to play. Gaelic football involves similar skills to Aussie Rules and as shown by the results, the children can play both games, allowing them to enjoy team sports.
Beijing is about to get its own three-round 9-a-side football league. The initiative is a direct result of increased player numbers on the Beiing Bombers' roster and enthusiasm for more matches. For the tournament, the Beijing Bombers will split into the Santa Fe Saints, AZ China ChaoYang Cats and DongCheng Demons. These teams aren't a replacement of the Bombers, who will continue to play their own matches throughout the year.
The Saints are sponsored by Santa Fe Relocation Services, and the core player recruitment area is the SanLitun & Embassy district of Beijing. The AZ China ChaoYang Cats are sponsored by consultancy firm, AZ China and represent the east side of Beijing, ChaoYang district. Most players living east of the second ring road were automatically zoned to the Cats. DongCheng represent the more central and western Beijing districts.
If it proves successful, a follow up tournament will be held later in the year.
Punjabi-Australian journalist Manpreet Kaur Singh recently wrote an article for the AFL website, entitled, "Footy in a patka". In it she takes a lighthearted look at how Australian football can help bring people together and break down barriers. She also makes mention of Balraj Singh, a footballer of Punjabi descent, who at his peak was listed on the Adelaide Crows roster.
We've reported previously that the Australian Football League is keen to stage an exhibition match in Shanghai as part of the 2010 Expo. We've also reported the Federal Government is now supporting Aussie Rules as a potential export product.
These two factors seem to be coming together, with renewed reports that a match will go ahead. An article in the Herald Sun, Australian Rules Football to be played in China, quotes Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, currently in China, as saying that "It is a great way to make Australian rules known in China," and "It's a great game, it's fast and exciting, but people need to see it first-hand". Writer Gerard McManus speculates that long term, the AFL may have its eye on selling TV rights the emerging economic superpower. The suggestion is that the game would feature Melbourne against Brisbane or new-boys the Gold Coast.
A lot more quotes and information can be read in AFL eyes Shanghai showcase, by Michael Sainsbury, including Crean stating, "Look at all the people. Anyone who watches a game of Aussie Rules football falls in love with it," and "This will be an expo that has 70 million people. If we can show the game played on their soil with their audience I think it would take off."
No word yet, but wouldn't it be tremendous to feature China versus Japan as the curtain raiser. That would give China two years to bring themselves up to Japan's level - difficult but possible if enough resources are committed.
Back in 2007, Vietnamese-Australian Tri Thoi from the Box Hill North footy club founded a new side known as the Elgar Park Dragons, a project aimed at building the participation of Asian-Australians in the indigenous footy code.
Originally based largely around the Vietnamese team from the Multicultural Cup, but with increasing numbers of players from other nationalities, the Dragons played the 2008 and 2009 seasons in the Victorian Amateur Football Assocation's Club 18 division, as the third senior team associated with Box Hill North.
This year the Dragons have gone it alone, becoming a stand-alone club, joining the semi-professional Southern Football League and moving their home base from Elgar Park to the suburb of Clayton, around 10km south.
With the relocation, the club has been renamed the "Southern Dragons". Their playing base still has a large Vietnamese contingent, but also now boasts a large number of players of Cambodian background, a few from nations such as Japan, China and Korea and a few non-Asians, including Greeks and New Zealanders.
From fielding just one senior side in 2007, the Dragons this year will have seniors, reserves and under 18s. Although their seniors have gone down in their first two matches, their entry into the league has created plenty of media interest, with reports including Fire in the belly as Dragons Awake in major Melbourne tabloid the Herald-Sun, and Enter the Dragon in the suburban Leader Group newspapers.
Although China has a reasonable history of expat footy it was the Tianjin-Melbourne partnership, the SuZhou schools program and the arrival of the China Demons all-Chinese side at IC08 that confirmed that Aussie Rules was starting to accelerate in the Asian giant. The building of a dedicated field was also announced, and the expat sides were working closely with locals to get a variety of these programs going. After such a successful year, could it continue into 2009? The answer appears to be "not quite", with some programs dropping back but others still showing plenty of promise.
worldfootynews.com spoke with AFL China's Andrew Sawitsch about their year of consolidation. Sawitsch is an Australian Football Development Officer, on a part time basis and supported by the Australian Football League, Beijing Australian Football Club and the City of Melbourne Office Tianjin. First up we asked him what human resources are available to keep game development going, besides his own position. "I rely a lot on volunteer support from the universities and teams and I’ve discussed with the AFL taking on some local people to further promote the game, I’ll keep you posted on any updates".
Next we turned to the question of how the national side and adult team program has kicked on after their 2008 debut at International level down in Melbourne.
One of the big stories in international sport last year was the Beijing Olympics, and related to that, the push by so many sporting codes to gain a slice of the Chinese market. Tom Parker is a regular visitor to China and has been working with the AFL on options for Australian football. Parker wrote an article for China Connections on some of that potential, including the building of the first Aussie Rules oval in China - see The Business of Sport . We'll have more on the progress of the Tianjin field later, and follow up reports that Kevin Sheedy is headed to China as well.
The Thailand Tigers proved far to strong for the Vietnam Swans in the annual Hellfire Pass game played at Kanchanaburi on Anzac Day, April 25th, 2009
The Tigers were younger, faster and fitter and, although the Swans played with plenty of heart, they were well defeated 91 points to 13. The Tigers got away with a strong lead in the first half – keeping the Swans goalless in the second term, and coasted home in the second half winning the ANZAC Cup, Tigers star Damien Hoo earning best on ground as voted by the 'Diggers'.
Off the footy field, both teams attended the emotionally moving Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass, followed by a visit to the Allied War Cemetery for a memorial and wreath laying service.
The Vietnam Swans were given the honour of laying our own wreath during the official service. This magnificent opportunity was made possible thanks to the Thailand Tigers who organise for a wreath to be laid on behalf of each of the clubs that have played them on ANZAC Day. This is the 5th year of their ANZAC Match, the other four teams to have played Thailand are the Malaysian Warriors, Hong Kong Dragons, Bali Geckos and Jakarta Bintangs.
The actual match was played in front of a crowd of between 300 and 400 people - including 3 ex POWs.
On a day where football truly was the winner, the Singapore Wombats annexed the Anzac Day Cup triumphing over the Malaysian Warriors and an Australian Army side at Alice Smith School on April, 25th 2009.
To some extent the results were secondary to the day itself. This year is the 10th year of the Warriors history, and importantly, they are hosting the Asian Championships in September. Given the gains our code has made in the Asian region over the past few years, Warriors have been keen to build on that and to promote the upcoming Championships though the media.
A local television segment focused on the Anzac Day Tri-Series and this was backed by a studio appearance of the Warriors leadership on NTV7’s breakfast show, and further exposure for the Great Game is coming via a camera crew representing the Australian TV network who recorded Saturday’s activities.
With the added assistance from other KL based organizations, targeted advertising in the form of email and flyer distribution helped boost the numbers to a more than acceptable attendance. Suffice to say that there was great exposure for the Club Sponsors and the image of Australian Rules Football within Malaysia on the day.
The Malaysian Warriors in association with the Australia Month Campaign are grateful to all those who attended and supported a fantastic Anzac Day afternoon, Saturday 25 April. Special thanks go to the Australian Army “Rifle Division”, the Singapore Wombats, the Australian Alumni Hunteroos and the young boys from Saint John’s Institution Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur for their involvement.
Many thanks to Glen Sargeant, Ben Simpson and Peter Habel of the Malaysian Warriors for contributing the bulk of this article.