The return of AFL football in 2013 was today heralded by the launch of the 2013 NAB Cup. This year’s NAB Cup was launched at Etihad Stadium today by three players set to make highly anticipated debuts for new clubs in Friday night’s opening round.
As AFL fans prepare to see how their team is shaping up in 2013, the pre-season competition was ushered in by two of the highest profile off-season free agents, Essendon’s Brendon Goddard and Collingwood’s Clinton Young, along with one of the game’s brightest new recruits, Western Bulldogs rookie Jackson Macrae.
Essendon, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs will kick off this year’s NAB Cup with all three teams taking on each other at Etihad Stadium this Friday, February 15 (from 6.45pm).
Whether it's a rookie selected early in the 2012 NAB AFL Draft or those established players who have moved clubs via free agency in the off-season, this year’s NAB Cup once again provides the first chance to ‘see how they shape up’ ahead of the Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
On face value this may seem like a strange analogy. Back in the 1850’s, when gold was being dug up all over New South Wales and Victoria, people were leaving behind their home countries to try their luck on the goldfields. If they could find enough gold they could be set for life. Some succeeded, whilst others returned home wiser for the experience.
Well, it’s happening again, in a much smaller way and for a completely unrelated reason. The lure of Australian football is drawing young men (and women) to the spiritual, geographical and historical home of the game to give it a go and, hopefully, be the next big thing. There are players coming from Canada, the USA, Great Britain, continental Europe, Oceania countries and even Africa for a singular, united purpose… just like the days of the gold rushes.
Articles have been written already about the likes of Gideon Simon and Brendan Beno (PNG), Kurt Heatherley, Siope Ngata, Ben Miller, Shem Tatupu and Khan Haretuku (NZ), Shae McNamara and Eric Wallace (USA), Adam Ballard (England) and Anthony Trigg (Wales), Zac Tuohy, Marty Clarke, Pearce Hanley, Caolan Mooney and many others from Ireland as well as Patrick Ndongo (Cameroon) and Yoshi Harris (Nauru). There are more not mentioned, but all are enjoying various degrees of success in the AFL or VFL. It could be strongly argued that this is evidence that international Australian Rules football is becoming more and more attractive as a sporting option. And possibly more than ever, players believe there is a pathway of success that can be followed from the smaller local stage to the greatest Australian Rules stages of all.
In a recent article about Maningrida Footy in the Northern Territory, the Michael Long NT Thunder Learning and Leadership Centre was mentioned as a link to allow young players from remote communities to follow the talent pathways on offer for Australian Rules football. It has proven difficult for young players, indigenous and non indigenous, to make the transition to the demands of life playing football away from home. This centre will greatly assist young players in that transition to hopefully go on to play at the highest level.
“Essendon legend and AFL great Michael Long met Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean and Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon in Canberra to discuss progress on the Michael Long NT Thunder Learning and Leadership Centre in Darwin.
At Parliament House, Mr Long, a dual premiership player and Norm Smith medallist, outlined the construction timetable and unveiled the logo for the centre.
Mr Long said he was delighted to update Mr Crean and Mr Snowdon on the progress of the project.
“I am delighted with the final design of the logo as I believe it encapsulates both the essence of the project and the spirit of the Territory,” Mr Long said.
“The release of the logo and branding is an important step as we progress to commencing construction, as planned, in April.
The AFL has named the final Indigenous All-Stars squad that will take on Richmond Football Club tomorrow, Friday, February 8 in Alice Springs, captained by Essendon star Nathan Lovett-Murray.
Sydney Swans premiership player Michael O’Loughlin will coach the Indigenous All-Stars, assisted by Roger Hayden, Adam Goodes, Shaun Burgyone and Lance Franklin (Franklin, previously named captain withdrew from playing this week due to injury.)
The AFL is pleased to announce that Hawthorn star Lance Franklin will captain the Indigenous All Stars when they take on the Richmond Football Club on Friday, February 8 at 7pm in Alice Springs.
Supported by the Coles AFL Indigenous program, the match will be played at Traeger Park and will showcase the Indigenous talent in the AFL.
Franklin said he is proud to captain the All Stars for the first time and looks forward to the match against Richmond.
"The Indigenous All Stars match is a really important event as it recognises the Indigenous Australians' contribution to the national competition. It's a chance for some of the best Indigenous talent from across the country to play together."
It was also reported today in the Herald Sun that Franklin would like to have the Indigenous team play in a three team International Rules competition against the Irish and Australian teams "Personally, I would love to see the All Stars take on the Australia and Ireland teams. That would be great recognition for the indigenous players."
The indigenous community of Maningrida almost defines the term “remote”. It sits on the estuary of the Liverpool River in Arnhem Land, right where it flows into the Arafura Sea. The nearest town of size is Jabiru, “a coupla hundred clicks [kilometres] away” according to one local. Darwin, the nearest capital city, is 400 kilometres away to the west. Like so many other remote communities throughout the “Top End” of Australia, that remoteness can be both its charm and its curse.
When Bernie Price, Regional Development Manager for AFLNT in Maningrida, arrived there after 6 years as a plumber in Yarrawonga, Victoria, he admits to a “slight career change” which has introduced him to an entirely different culture and lifestyle. But it also gave him the chance to interact with indigenous culture and combine that with his love of Australian Rules football.
His role commenced in July 2012 when funding from FaHCSIA (Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) and the ABA (Aboriginal Benefit Account) provided the opportunity for similar positions to be created in the indigenous communities of Gapuwiyak, Lajamanu, Ngukurr and Hermannsburg, as well as Maningrida. This was an expansion of the existing AFLNT program which commenced in Wadeye in 2007 and extended to Galiwinku and Groote Eyelandt in 2009.
Opportunities for junior talent throughout the remote areas of the Northern Territory to follow Australian Rules football pathways have been enhanced, as outlined in this media release from AFLNT.
“AFL Northern Territory’s Remote Projects Department have joined forces with Northern Territory Football League clubs to create and improve talent opportunities available for remote players across the NT.
“The NTFL Partnership Program was initiated with great cooperation from our NTFL Clubs to further develop and fast track the progression of our remote players into our talent pathways,” said AFLNT Indigenous Programs Manager Kevin Bruce.
Each of AFLNT’s nine remote projects where full-time staff are located have been linked with an NTFL team to further foster and develop opportunities. “So far, a total of 38 players from all over the Territory have participated in the program, where they not only play for an NTFL club, but spend 10 days supervised in Darwin learning life skills and participating in all training and recovery sessions that the club has,” advised Bruce.
Head Coach Kevin Sheedy will visit Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory tomorrow to launch a new partnership between the Giantsand the Galiwin'ku community. Sheedy, a passionate advocate of Indigenous Australia, will meet members of the community and attend a local football match.
Galiwin'ku, about 520 kilometres from Darwin, is the largest community on Elcho Island and the second largest Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory with a population of 2290 people. It was the inspiration for the song 'My Island Home', originally performed by the Warumpi Band, and later also performed by Christine Anu. It is also home to the blind Aboriginal folk singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.
For a bit of fun take a look at the Youtube video put together by two Australian girls kicking the footy around the world. A similar idea has been mooted before as a promo video for the International Cup with players from each country kicking the footy around the world, but is yet to happen.