“Just give it [Australian Rules football] a go. Have a try, give it a taste and get a feel for the game.”
Such is the overriding message that Bachar Houli, Richmond footballer and Multicultural Ambassador for the game, delivers to his charges wherever he is visiting. In his role as ambassador, or through his own Bachar Houli Academy or any of his other community involvements, Bachar is in a unique position to convert young people to our game.
In a chat today with Bachar it was clear that he is passionate about the game, and equally passionate about the opportunities the game can give to young people. “I say to the kids I work with, especially in the Islamic schools, that if you give it a go you will understand and grow the game. The kids give it a try, from soccer or rugby backgrounds, and see that they already have many of the skills needed to play. From there it’s easy.”
Maybe, just maybe, Tijs Lejeune represents a new era of Australian Rules football followers. Since the beginning of the game in the mid-nineteenth century Australian Rules football has been adored and accepted as our own “Australian game”. Even in more recent times with the onset of international matches, recruiting, multicultural acceptance and general interest there was still a strong belief by many that the game might occasionally spark outside of home, but will forever remain an Australian product for Australian people.
But Tijs offers one tiny shred of evidence that a new generation is being born into the existing international push over the past couple of decades and are seeing the game in a more global way.
When talking about the game, Tijs admits “I've always loved viewing the international expansion articles of AFL in Europe, NZ, USA and love following the progress of the combines and the introduction of AFL footy players in America.”
As reported in the Brisbane Courier Mail newspaper, recent successes with the development of international players will see AFL clubs make greater efforts to scour the world for new talent. The past few years have seen more and more international players joining AFL clubs. Most notable are higher profile players such as Mike Pyke from Canada (Sydney Swans), Tadgh Kennelly (Sydney Swans), Marty Clarke (Collingwood) and a host of other Irish players scattered across the clubs.
Eric Wallace (North Melbourne) came to the club after the AFL Combine in the USA whilst Kurt Heatherley (Hawthorn) joined the club almost directly from New Zealand junior programs. The international experiments started years ago are now beginning to bear fruit, and this is likely to gather even more steam after the recent AFL Europe Combine in Dublin. The following Courier Mail article takes a closer look.
The Footy Almanac is a game by game account of every AFL match of the season. Over 150 shameless one-eyed writers tell the story of their day following the footy.
They are passionate fans. The result is a wonderful collection of footy writing: funny, insightful, one-eyed. They are from all walks of life and many varied locations, including international contributors. The contributions are selected by the editors from those submitted to the www.footyalmanac.com.au website during the season.
Some of the contributors giving the The Footy Almanac international flavour are Glen Brownstein from the USA, Peter Cresswell from NZ and Candian expat living in Australia Glen Mudie.
World Footy News scribe Prof. Stephen Alomes is a regular contributor to The Footy Almanac as well, his Round 5 Melbourne vs Gold Coast match report is featured and WFN editor Troy Thompson makes his Footy Almanac debut in this year’s edition.
The following story from Jennifer Phelan at afl.com details the granting of funding to Richmond player, Bachar Houli, to allow his leadership academy for Islamic participants to develop and grow further. In keeping with the previous article looking at the Multicultural Community Programs initiated by the AFL, the Bachar Houli Program and Bachar Houli Leadership Academy represent further cultural advances as the AFL itself, and through individual initiatives such as these, which will continue the link between the game and the communities and cultural groups which embrace it.
Bachar Houli has received a $200,000 grant from the Australian government to help push the 'Bachar Houli Program' into western Sydney. This year, the program engaged more than 5000 participants from Islamic schools across the country.
In 2015, the national Bachar Houli Leadership Academy, based at Punt Road, will include 35 participants – up from 25 – and will further increase its encouragement and engagement with young Muslims aged between 14-17 across Australia. And, it will create another leadership academy in western Sydney, which will include a further 35 participants.
Having this week received both a recommendation and invitation to become a Multicultural Ambassador, I thought it prudent to brush up on information about their role and the wider aims of the AFL’s Multicultural Program. Along the way it became clear that this concept, whilst no longer in its infancy, is still some way from its potential. It is entirely possible that the Multicultural Community Ambassadors could play a greater role in the wider uptake of the game internationally as well as here in Australia.
The AFL’s own website features pages which detail both the Multicultural Program in its entirety as well as a brief about the role of the ambassadors. It says:
“The aim of the Australia Post AFL Multicultural Community Ambassador Program is to further engage multicultural communities in Australian football through a network of dedicated volunteers. The ambassadors will connect AFL staff with their particular communities and promote AFL activities as a vehicle for engagement and inclusion. The program will also provide community leaders with an official platform to become involved in the introduction and coordination of AFL related programs in their communities as well as opportunities for professional development.”
With the 2014 AFL Rookie Draft complete, the final list has a predicted yet pleasing smattering of international players. Most of these had already been announced by clubs earlier in the year when they nominated their international recruits or “B List” rookies.
But it places a full stop on these selections when they are seen formally listed on draft day.
The list was kicked off by the West Coast Eagles when they announced Irish recruit, Patrick Brophy, as their Pick 45. He was the first of five Irish players to make their way to club rookie lists in 2014.
I went downstairs this morning to find my cricket bat. I wanted to join the legions of people honouring the passing of Phillip Hughes by putting it outside the front door of our house as a mark of respect to the young man. But I couldn’t find it. I guess at some point we had given it away and I’d forgotten. I cried a little. The only time I’d have picked the bat up for a truly worthwhile reason and it wasn’t there.
Instead I settled for my daughter’s Vigoro bat: a similar game for women with a bat that looks more like a paddle, yet can slice a ball through point with equal effectiveness. It might look odd, but it sits out front representing just as much respect.
Phillip Hughes was not bought up with Australian Rules football. His background was more with cricket and the rugby codes. But there is an inextricable link between cricket and Aussie Rules which goes back to the 1850’s when Aussie Rules was created as a way of keeping cricketers fit during their “off-season”. But apart from that, most sportspeople have an admiration, or at least respect, for all other sports. Elite level players of most sports recognise the levels of skill and commitment of players in other sports.
It’s been an exciting year for GIANTS community clubs around the globe. Nearly 20 clubs across Australia and the world wore the GIANTS colours in 2014.
For a club that’s only been in the AFL for three years this is a fantastic achievement and we want to spread the GIANTS name across the world.
The South East London GIANTS made the AFL London Grand Final for the first time but lost in a close match. The Zaprude GIANTS in Croatia came fourth in the CEAFL league which includes Croatian and Austrian teams while they came third in the Croatian National League.
Earlier this year, Jeremy Cameron’s home club of Dartmoor in south-west Victoria changed their name from the Swans to the GIANTS. It was an instant success with the senior side completing an undefeated season and winning the South West District Football League Grand Final.
In a world where soccer/football is arguably the most followed ball sport globally, where people in North America idolise their NFL or NBA or other ball game heroes and where the various rugby codes across the world draw fanatical support, how is it that Australian Rules football is able to continue to attract new followers. What is it that makes people want to play the game?
Left: Gary Ablett Snr takes a screamer for Geelong (Herald Sun)
During the recent International Cup tournament in Melbourne there were two series of articles written for World Footy News. The “IC14 Vignettes” series and the “Meet The Players” series both touched on the reasons players were drawn to the game. There was a wide variety of answers.
Some looked at their involvement as “exciting” and cited the kicking, handpassing, marking and tackling as the elements of the game that captured their imagination. Others cited the family connections, team spirit, support networks and social aspects as being most important.