The Lao Elephants, Asia's newest footy side, made their debut on November 17th in Hanoi, taking on the Thailand Tigers and hosts Vietnam Swans in a three-team tournament. Thirteen players made the trip from the Lao PDR to pull on the pink and grey jumper (pictured at right), augmented by eight curious Irishmen who had seen them carrying a Sherrin at the airport and decided to come along for a kick.
The Elephants went down to the Vietnam Swans 5.2.32 to 3.5.23 in their first-ever match, a gallant effort in extreme heat and humidity with a number of players (not least the Irish) having never played competitive footy before. In the following two games, the Thailand Tigers proved themselves a long way ahead of their Indochinese regional rivals, defeating the Swans 85-21 and the Elephants 63-28.
The tournament also included a ladies' netball tri-series, with the Lao Mahouts running out victors over the Thai and Vietnamese sides in their first international appearance.
In a side note for trivia buffs, international footy identity and former WFN Asia writer "the Big Rooster" both designed the jumper and took the field for the Elephants, meaning he has now played for teams from 19 countries. International footy connoisseurs may also recognise the Elephant on the Lao jumpers as once having been at home in Eastern Europe.
The Japan AFL's Top League expanded to outside the Tokyo area this year with the arrival of the Osaka Dingoes bringing the numer of clubs to six.
The 2006 season saw the number of JAFL clubs grow to five, with the "Samurai" club of University students splitting into the Senshu Uni Powers, Komazawa Magpies and Tokyo Leopards and joining the expat-based Tokyo Goannas and Uni Graduate Eastern Hawks.
The Osaka Dingoes formed a few years ago, but didn't join with the Tokyo clubs until 2007, having a big first season and only narrowly missing the premiership.
The Tianjin Normal University (TJNU) footy club has recently branched out to form a club at its Yangcun campus, the newbies debuting last Saturday in an all-Chinese three-team tournament in Tianjin.
The TJNU City and TJNU Yangcun teams were joined by the SiShen Bombers, the local development squad of the Beijing Bombers, with around 50 Chinese students aged 18-22 taking part. The TJNU City side came out on top on the day, defeating Yangcun 36-25 and the SiShen Bombers 43-13, in a tournament enjoyed by all despite the wind and cold weather.
In other Chinese footy news, the two Aussie expat-based mainland clubs clashed in Shanghai on the weekend of November 10th, with the Beijing Bombers having their first-ever away win over the Shanghai Tigers.
The Thailand Tigers, Vietnam Swans and Lao Elephants will play a three-way tournament on November 17th at the United Nations School in Hanoi.
The footy will kick off at 12.30pm, with three matches pitting each of the teams against one another. The tournament will be the international debut for the Elephants who only formed in April 2007. The boys from Laos are reportedly very excited to be pulling on the pink and grey for the first time.
The tri-nations will also feature the Netball girls who will play from 11am
- including the international debut of the Lao Mahoots netball side.
With the Geckos proving too good for a depleted Wombats team, the Cats decided to get into the action with an exhibition of their skills during half-time and after the game. Lifelong Geelong supporter and Geckos' veteran Dave 'Buffet' Eagles said that it was a once in a lifetime chance to have a kick with his heroes. "It was fantastic, something like the equivalent of having a hit of tennis with Roger Federer. It was great to have a kick with the current best Aussie rule team in the world".
Geckos' President Dan Brooks said that having an AFL team tour Bali as their end of season trip, something not seen since before the 2002 bombing, was a great thing for the Geckos and for Bali in general.
The Geckos are now preparing to host the 2008 Bali 9s Masters, to be held June 7. For more information on the event, visit www.BaliNines.com, while more information on the club can be found at www.BaliGeckos.com.
The Melbourne Football Club's tour of China is revealing that initial investment in Australian Football in Asia's giant is already bearing fruit. In the past there have been occasional visits by AFL clubs to international destinations with one-off clinics they may not leave a lasting legacy. So it must have been a delight for the Demons to find school children in Suzhou already well-versed in the skills of Aussie Rules. Details of the club's trip are being regularly updated on their website as the Melbourne dalliance with new markets begins in earnest.
The Jakarta Bintangs are well known to International footy fans, but also kicking the sherrin in the Indonesian capital are the Jakarta Bulldogs, an under 18s side formed in late 2006 by students from the British International School (BIS) in Jakarta.
The driving force for the side were two teenagers from South Australia, who recruited schoolmates to form the team - most of whom had no idea what Australian rules football was. Consequently, the team sports players from all over the globe, including Finnish, New Zealander, British and local Indonesians. Their first match was against West Java AFL team the Pancawati Eagles on November 24th, a fixture which saw the Bulldogs go down to the Eagles 74-70. Since then, the Bulldogs have maintained an unbeaten run through '07, defeating the West Java AFL's Depok Garudas, the Jakarta Bintangs' reserve team and last weekend a team of junior Indonesian rugby players.
The match on Saturday October 6th was held at the halftime break of the senior match between the Jakarta Bintangs and the International Sports Club Indonesia (ICSI). The Bintangs vs ICSI match has been an annual fixture for some years, played as half-footy-half-rugby - or "fugby".
The Bulldogs took on the ICSI junior rugby players confident in the knowledge that the ICSI boys had little to no idea about Aussie Rules, and piled on 5 goals in the first half while holding the ICSI side goalless. The second half saw the Bulldogs loan ICSI a few players, evening up the match but still seeing the Bulldogs run out 5.6.36 to 0.3.3 winners.
For more information on the Jakarta Bulldogs, visit their website.
The Beijing SiShen Bombers - all-Chinese expansion team of the Beijing Bombers - took on the Tianjin Normal University Demons in a 10-a-side match in the Chinese capital last weekend.
The match was the first domestic fixture in China to be played between two 100% Chinese sides, the SiShen Bombers running out winners 6.13.49 to 5.10.40 in wet conditions at the Beijing Science and Technology University.
Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper reported this morning that the AFL's Demons will pick two Chinese teenagers for training scholarships in its upcoming 10-day China tour. Melbourne's connections with the city of Tianjin, as well as junior programs and/or clubs in Beijing, Suzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong have been a regular feature on WFN and elsewhere over the past few months. Maybe this could be the start of something big?