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.
On 1 July 1945, The Australian 7th Division, composed of the 18th, 21st and 25th Infantry Brigades, with support troops, made an amphibious landing, codenamed Operation Oboe Two, a few miles north of Balikpapan, on the island of Borneo. The landing had been preceded by heavy bombing and shelling by Australian air and naval forces. The Japanese were outnumbered and out gunned, but like the other battles of the Pacific War, many of them fought to the death. 230 Aussies paid the ultimate sacrifice
Taking the name Operation Yoboe, the Jakarta Bintangs, with their junior side the Jakarta Bulldogs in tow, journeyed to Balikpapan in Kalimantan to contest the Borneo Bears for the Borneo Cup on Anzac Day, April 25th, 2009.
As always, the day commenced with the solemnity of the Dawn Service, but the afternoon’s football was fast and furious and not without surprise.
Many countries have military forces in Afghanistan as part of the ongoing conflict, under the banner of the International Security Assistance Force.
Australian Sergeant Darrin Tapp is a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) in the Royal Australian Air Force in Afghanistan. "One of my roles here is to keep up morale and fitness levels for the 2000+ troops from 40 different nations around the world. One of these ways, and to bring a bit of Australian culture to HQ ISAF is to allow several nations to experience our great game of Australian Rules Football".
So Sergeant Tapp undertook the process of getting a tournament going in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, with the aim of linking it in with ANZAC Day, including inviting players to a service and to watch a telecast of the Collingwood versus Essendon clash from the MCG.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and is commemorated each year on April 25th by Australia and New Zealand to remember those who have served in their armed forces.
Anzac Day and Australian Football are inextricably linked , more so than any other of the football codes played in Australia. The immortal words “Up there Cazaly” were used to inspire diggers in the trenches in World War 1. The story of one of the game’s great icons, Ron Barassi begins with his father, himself a Melbourne player being killed in World War II and the young Ron being fostered by the legendary Norm Smith.
Another Melbourne player, “Bluey” Truscott, was an ace wartime pilot, twice awarded the DFC, and unfortunately killed in action. Melbourne’s best and fairest award is named after him. Hence it comes as no surprise that games on Anzac Day assume a special significance, the one certainty being that coaches in pre-match addresses will pepper their orations with ‘courage’ and ‘sacrifice’, and unnecessarily remind the boys to ‘remember what day this is'.
South East Asia, which has seen more than its fair share of Australian military action, sacrifice and courage over the years is no exception, and this years Anzac Day sees major ceremonies and football events in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Of particular interest the Malaysian Warriors are hosting the Singapore Wombats (a Changi Cup Clash) and an Australian Army team at Alice Smith School starting on Saturday at 1pm, playing for the Anzac Day Cup.
The Jakarta Bintangs and their junior team the Bulldogs are trekking to Balikpapan to take on the Borneo Bears in what promises to be a memorable Anzac Day of football and remembrance.
Starting with the solemnity of the Dawn Service and the laying of wreaths, the day will proceed to a 3-team carnival featuring the Bintangs, Bulldogs and Bears.
Borneo, a vast jungle covered island, was the scene of some of Australia’s most successful military operations (Operations Oboe – The battles of Tarakan, Balikpapan, Brunei and North Borneo) in World War Two, and the site of one of our greatest tragedies, The Sandakan Death March of which only 6 Australians survived from an initial group of 2000 Prisoners of War.
Last month the AFL website posted an article titled simply Footy in Siberia, telling the story of Dave Henry, an Australian who recently held Auskick clinics and organised an inter-school footy tournament in a number of schools somewhere in Siberia.
The clinics were part of a cultural exchange with over 1000 children taking part in the English component of the program and over 200 taking part in footy clinics. Henry showed the kids videos of Australian football action, then students participated in a number of clinics before forming school teams, playing on basketball courts due to the climactic conditions of the Siberian winter.
Henry performed the clinics solely on a volunteer basis, although he was given some material assistance by the AFL Queensland. Children each received stickers, hats and other give-aways, while schools received footballs and training equipment.
Reportedly the schools are keen to repeat the tournament, but somewhat oddly the article does not mention exactly in which towns the program took place, nor how to contact anyone involved. WFN will endeavour to find out more and get back to our readers on this!