Switzerland's first Australian Football club may soon be founded in Geneva, with Kevin Meynard on the lookout for players. Kevin first saw footy while on holidays in Australia three years ago, and quickly became infected with the footy-virus.
So far he's collected about 7 or 8 players who are interested, although ideally he'd like to find at least 18. "To start with I'd like to find 18 so that we can play 9 vs 9 against ourselves, then we can look at playing against some of the French or German teams."
He's also searched if there might be a Gaelic club in Geneva with players who might be interested, although he hasn't found one as yet. "Apparently there's an Irishman currently living in Bahrain who wants to start a Gaelic or Australian Football club in Geneva, but for juniors."
"The Swiss are a bit scared - when they see footy they imagine "catch" mixed with rugby. So I created a blog to inform people." The blog, mainly dedicated to explaining footy to beginners, is located at australianfootball.skyrock.com.
Anyone in the vicinity of Geneva who wants to make contact with Kevin can email him via email@example.com or through his blog.
After a superb debut that had much of the AFL media buzzing, Irishman Martin Clarke has backed up with three goals and making Collingwood's best player list in just his second match. Although the Pies lost the blockbuster against Hawthorn by 8 points, it wasn't through lack of ability by Clarke who was his team's leading goalkicker and finished with 13 kicks, 6 handballs and 3 goals 1. WFN has previously suggested that clubs that aren't actively seeking international recruits are probably doing themselves a disservice. In many ways it will be sad if the ranks of Gaelic football in Ireland are pillaged for young talent by AFL clubs, as their sport is major part of their culture and at least by appearances a very close cousin to Australian Football. But regardless, it seems likely that more than any Irish recruit before him, the almost instant success of Clarke will have club recruiters clamouring for tickets to the Emerald Isle. One suspects the GAA may go rushing back to the negotiating table for a restart of International Rules so they have some leverage with the AFL to try to prevent a surge in player losses. Given his auspicious start, Martin Clarke must be a good chance to receive a NAB Rising Star nomination. If his form keeps up, he could just be one of the top AFL stories of 2007.
With Fijian-Irishmen Setanta and Aisake O'hAilpin in Melbourne playing for Carlton and its VFL affiliate Northern Bullants, their older brother Teu has also taken up the game, joining the Leeside Lions in Ireland's local Aussie Rules league. At 29 Teu is several years older than Carlton's recruits and has played both Gaelic Football and Hurling to a very high level. He has represented Cork at U-18 and U-21, and then played seniors for Clare having moved there in 2001. He later lived for a while in London where he played both Hurling and Gaelic football. He has spent time in Melbourne with his two brothers and his debut appearance for Leeside helped push them over the line in a very tight match against the Dublin Swans a few weeks ago. The three athletes also have an older brother, Sean Og, who has had a stellar career in Gaelic football and impressed Australian footy fans with his strong performances in International Rules. So it seems talent runs right through the family - maybe one day Carlton will be recruiting Irishmen under the father-son rule.
The British Australian Rules Football League have held an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the upcoming Brit Cup, the 2007 finals and their proposed strategy for the way forward for the sport in Britain. The rival UK Footy plan was also put up for discussion as an alternative structure for the organisation of Aussie Rules in the United Kingdom. The UK Footy plan would see the existing BARFL set aside and a new body put over the top (see UK Footy unity plan being debated for more details). It's fair to say that although the new concept has been launched as a way of unifying the game, it can only do so if it gets widespread support. If it is seen as simply one side trying to roll the other then it will be politics as usual. Given that the BARFL recently discussed the proposal at the EGM, we spoke with BARFL Secretary Donald Eastwood to gauge the response of the Committee and clubs to both the new BARFL strategy and the opposing model. It seems they too would like to see some changes, but don't believe the radical step of dissolving the BARFL is necessary.
Ireland's Martin Clarke has opened his AFL career with a polished display in Collingwood's impressive win over Sydney at Telstra Stadium last night (Saturday 23rd June). Despite being named on the bench the 19 year old left-footer started on the field and played most of the match across half-back. Clarke was used mostly as a loose defender which allowed him to gather a high possession count. His first kick sailed out on the full and he naturally appeared tentative at first but quickly grew in confidence. As his possession count increased he revealed that of all the Irish recruits he has perhaps the most classical Australian Football kicking technique. Although still not 100% fluent his style was perfectly reasonable and was used to good effect throughout the night. Perhaps even more impressive were his reflexes and ability to take a tackle. Clarke was caught holding the ball on one occasion, but in many other cases was able to turn into a tackle and free his arms to give out clean handballs. Also notable was his mark of a "hospital" kick deep in the back pocket at a crucial stage when Sydney were surging. The ball hung above him and looked like an easy pick-off for the Sydney player, but Clarke leapt high into danger to get a hand on the ball then complete the mark falling to ground. There was also an incident later when he received a high knock and grabbed his head and there was fleeting moment when it looked like he may dwell on the blow rather than get back up quickly, but he was soon to his feet.
Collingwood's Irish rookie, Martin Clarke, is set to make his debut against Sydney at Telstra Stadium this Saturday. The champion junior from County Down is the latest to show that with hard work the step from talented Gaelic footballer to the AFL's professional ranks can be done in less than two years. With only around 14 games of Australian Football to his name the 19 year old has in fact been Down Under for less than 12 months. Making Williamstown's best players in three of their last four games, Clarke has been named on the interchange bench but is sure to get a good run such is the modern game with hard running and dozens of interchanges. It will be a huge match to start off Clarke's career with over 60,000 expected to attend Sydney's home away from the SCG.
There could have been two Irishmen running out on the night, but Sydney stalwart Tadhg Kennelly suffered a knee injury in the Swans' last game and is expected to miss at least a month.
The rise of Martin Clarke will leave Aisake O'hAilpin as the remaining Irish recruit in the AFL system yet to play at the highest level, but reports suggest he isn't far away from a crack at the big time too.
WFN recently featured a story on junior development in Scotland, and it is this that has earned the praise of Scotland's peak sporting administrative body, in particular the work the SARFL is doing with youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But rather than read more here, go to the Winning Zone for one of the best write-ups of Australian footy you are likely to see in international media, and find out more on the excellent work of the SARFL in not only growing the game, but in achieving real progress for some of Scotland's youth.
Finland won back-to-back CEAFL Championships last weekend with a victory in the grand final over Austria, avenging an earlier defeat in the round-robin qualifying rounds. The four-team competition was hosted by Vienna and saw Finland, Austria and Croatia all win two matches in the qualifying rounds, Finland and Austria going through to the final on percentage. The event was staged in Austria and received some great exposure with a piece on local television, though footage from the 1991 SANFL Grand Final, a bloodbath between West Adelaide and North Adelaide remembered as possibly the most violent in the league's 130 year history may not have been the best advertisement for the sport. Let's hope the presenter (speaking in German) noted the game isn't usually like that. The report can be seen on Youtube here.
The tournament matches also counted towards the first round of the Eastern European Tri-nations, with Croatia winning the Schnitzel Cup (as the Vienna round of the tri-series is known).
Ireland's O'hAilpin brothers have continued their rocky rise to AFL ranks in 2007, with mixed results for both of them. Setanta has played both fullback and ruck at Carlton with promising signs but hasn't yet managed to hold down either position. He did hit the headlines again with a brief and relatively mild "punch-up" with fellow Blues ruckman Cain Ackland at training last week, though both players and coaching staff laughed it off as one of those things that can happen in competitive workouts. Younger brother Aisake has moved up from the Northern Bullants' reserves to league side and would be hoping to make the Blues' senior squad in 2008. In the following story we have a look at the form of both players, and have a very recent update with talk that Aisake might be moved to Carlton's senior list well ahead of schedule - maybe even this week.
Followers of the local Australian Football clubs in the United Kingdom will be well aware of recent turmoil in the game with a second organisation, Aussie Rules UK, starting up senior nine-a-side competitions in 2007. The main controversy has been ARUK not working within the BARFL system (whether it should have is a debate within itself) and deciding to run matches in areas with active BARFL clubs. The result has been small but significant ARUK affiliated leagues starting in Wales, Northern England and Southern England and the loss of several BARFL clubs and effectively the demise of their Regional League. None of this is black and white such as in the case of Sussex which has continued in the BARFL as The Swans but also expanded to support ARUK's southern zone, so there is some cross-over. It's fair to say that if everything was running perfectly in England then ARUK would not have managed to get a foot in the door. Of course it's easy to be critical of the BARFL without truly understanding the hard work done to keep a league running week in week out as a volunteer. In many respects the BARFL has a proven track record of being one of the most stable and successful Australian Rules leagues around the world, but with a few simmering problems within and pressure from outside through ARUK and the carrot of junior development it seems change could be in the wind. After the tumultuous off season and plenty of frustration by those involved it seems that there might be a mood for a major paradigm shift in the way footy is organised in the United Kingdom.