The Japan AFL Top League will this year kick off with seven sides, with the Nagoya Redbacks joining the current member clubs from Osaka and Tokyo. The season will feature seven home and away rounds, with teams playing all other sides once.
The first round will see Australian-based club the Tokyo Goannas travel to Nagoya on Saturday April 25th. The Redbacks were undefeated at home in their career in the Nippon AFL, as well as in the recent challenge series against the Osaka Dingoes, and will be keen to keep their perfect record intact.
Back in Tokyo, university clubs Komazawa Magpies and the Tokyo Leopards host the visiting Osaka Dingoes and university graduates Eastern Hawks respectively.
Also on the schedule for this season is the annual international Narita Cup, a possible Goannas vs Japan All Stars match in July, and a road trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the Asian Championships in early September.
The season will wrap up in November, with semi-finals to be held on November 8th and the Grand Final on November 22nd.
Many clubs in Asia have close affiliations with football clubs in Victoria and many have been moved by the tragic events of the past few weeks. The Bali Geckos Australian Rules Football Club have responded to the recent horrific bushfires that wreaked havoc on the state of Victoria by donating to an Australian Rules football league in the heart of the affected areas. The Geckos will donate US$500 to the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League, which includes the townships of Kinglake and Marysville, both of which were basically wiped out by the fires.
The Old Dark Navy Blues are visting Penang as part of a promotional tour following their recent sponsorship with Tourism Malaysia. It is not known as to whether Fev will make the trip, or whether the locals have been briefed on what to expect.
The club will take along a TV crew from Channel 10 station and leading football writer Mike Sheahan and a photographer from the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper.
Apart from daily reports in the newspaper, the television station will have live crossovers throughout the three days in its news and sports bulletins.
“This will be fantastic for Malaysia,” Tourism Malaysia’s Melbourne director Putra Hilmy Elias told Bernama.
Tourism Malaysia has signed a sponsorship package with the Carlton Football Club.
The Japan AFL recently celebrated 20 years of Australian football in that country. The origins are often traced back to a VFL exhibition game between Hawthorn and Essendon in Yokohama, and the desire to have a curtain raiser match between Japanese players.
An excellent article appeared in The Australian today, by Peter Wilson, a well known Australian journalist. He discusses his involvement as the reluctant coach of those first players, the lack of official support back in those days, and Wilson's pleasant surprise to find his early role has been remembered with an award.
The former Olympian was second at the race in 1998 and finally took out the prize on Sunday evening, after several attempts during a 20-year athletics career.
The Bay Sheffield is run over 120 metres (with handicaps) and is one of the major events on the Australian professional foot-running calendar, this year being the 122nd consecutive running, reportedly making it the oldest continually run race in Australia. It has seen many outstanding winners, the last notable footballer being Darren Kappler who began his league career with South Adelaide (82 games) before playing 187 games for Fitzroy, Sydney and Hawthorn from 1987 to 1998. To our knowledge, no Asian-based AFL player has ever competed, pace not being a pre-requisite for most players in the region.
At the generous odds of 20-1 in the AUD 20,000 event obviously bookmakers were unaware of his Indonesian form, and it is expected Rob celebrated long and hard after his triumph.
Hold the phone! There is a new force in Asian football. Charging out of the dense jungles surrounding Vientiane comes the irrestistible force of the Lao Elephants.
The Lao Elephants, who formed a team last year and won two of their 4 matches at this year’s Asian Champs, have gone on to claim the Indochina Cup. They were undefeated in their matches against the Vietnam Swans, the Cambodian Kangas and the Thailand Tigers, in the tournament played in Phonm Penh on 22nd November.
The Bali Geckos won their home tournament the Bali9s for the fourth time at Canggu Club on November 1st, 2008. This year four teams contested, the Geckos, their perennial rivals the Jakarta Bintangs, Timor Leste Crocs and Borneo Bears.
The Crocs and the Bears are new clubs, and whilst they were well defeated by their more experienced opponents they can be proud of their efforts and their participation augurs well for the future.
Played on a nine-a-side, round robin format, this type of football demands good running skills and plenty of depth on the interchange bench, often putting visiting sides as a disadvantage. In the preliminary rounds the Bintangs carried all before them, narrowly defeating the Geckos and having good wins over Borneo and Timor Leste. Bali won their other two games to qualify for the final.
In the final however, with the addition of some fresh legs, Bali began better and held a good advantage at half time. The Bintangs fought back in the second half to get within 3 points, but the fresher and fitter Geckos were able to kick away and win by 11 points.
Chris Bandy has been in the job as Head of Australian Football Development in Indonesia for a year, after an Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development grant allowed for the introduction of Australian Football into Indonesian Schools.
The initial results have been highly encouraging, and it is expected that a fully-functional junior competition will be set up in Jakarta next year. WFN recently interviewed Chris on his adventures in what is a challenging, but most interesting and rewarding environment.
The Vietnam Swans scored a meritorious 6 goal victory over the Malaysian Warriors in wet conditions at the RMIT University ground in HoChiMinh City on 25th October to annex the LINFOX-LOSCAM Cup for the first time.
The Warriors have had the edge over the Swans in previous encounters and the result was sweet revenge for a 15 goal drubbing suffered in Kuala Lumpur earlier in the year.
This game served as en excellent warm-up for the Swans as they move on to the inaugural IndoChina Cup scheduled to be played at the Phomn Penh International School on November 22nd.
From an Asian football perspective, this is a particularly exciting encounter as it will see the rebirth of the Cambodian Crocs (or Khmer Roos or Angkor Whats?), a team that had gone into decline over the past few years.
Thanks to the efforts of Greg Eggins and others, the Crocs are alive and well and will be joined by the exciting new force in Asia, the Lao Elephants, the well-established Thailand Tigers and the rapidly improving Vietnam Swans. This should be a great contest and hopefully will become an annual event to join the ever growing pantheon of tournaments in the South East Asian region.
After recently sending a partial squad of Timorese nationals to the NTAFL's preseason community tournament, the Crocs are entering a team in the Bali 9s to be held this weekend. Crocs are coming from Timor-Leste, as well as some players travelling from Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin.
As Luke Gosling explains, "these Australian-based players are all connected with Timor-Leste through previous work in the country on capacity building and a wide range of development projects from music and cultural exchanges, financial systems development, water projects and health."
The Timor Crocs would also like to recognise the support of 'The Tradie' Magazine as a new sponsor to the club. Their support will enable some additional shorts for the team.
Joining the Crocs in this tournament will be local opposition from Jakarta and the Borneo Bears, as well as hosts the Bali Geckos.
Read on for some photos of training on the beach in Dili with a few of the Crocs.