The job of great friend of international footy, Kevin Sheedy, is on the line, with talk rife that the Essendon Football Club may decide this week that his record tenure at the club must come to an end at the conclusion of the 2007 AFL season. Besides being a premiership player with Richmond in the 1960 and 70s and legendary coach with the Bombers from 1981 through to the present day, "Sheeds" was also the last coach of Australia's International Rules side and has long been an advocate for internationalising Aussie Rules. After a relatively quiet past couple of seasons on the coaching merry-go-round, 2007 is shaping up as a major turning point for many AFL coaching careers with 25% or more of the 16 coaches likely to lose their positions.
The Geelong football club recently signed their second player under the AFL’s New South Wales Scholarship Program. Ranga Ediriwickrama, born in Griffith (NSW), but of Sri Lankan heritage, is a graduate of Sydney’s Westbrook junior football club. Impressively, he is Westbrook’s third player to catch the eye of an AFL club, with Michael Johnson and Josh Fenaroli signed under the same scheme, by Hawthorn and Carlton respectively. He is currently playing for Pennant Hills.
The Scholarship Program requires AFL clubs to select at least one and no more than two NSW sportsmen between the ages of 15 and 17 yearly. Each scholarship, which can last up to three years, sees the player given coaching and monetary assistance by their AFL club, in return for the club getting priority to draft the youngster once they are eligible. The program is designed to give greater strength to the AFL’s push into NSW.
We pretty much only see news of international footy on mainstream network television news when the International Cup is on or when there is an AFL match played overseas. Last night Channel 7 in Melbourne ran a story on footy development in South Africa. The story was quite heavily promoted in advertising in the previous 24 hours. And following on from that they also interviewed Kevin Sheedy who indicated that he will be heading to the US again this year for both scouting and fact finding from U.S. sports.
The South African story includes interviews with Joel Kelly and Mtutu Hlomela and can be viewed online at this link: African Auskick. It should be noted that the story only focuses on one area of development, so doesn't mention the many other areas where footy is more advanced in South Africa.
The Kevin Sheedy/US story is quite short and includes a reference to Sheedy’s intention to go to the US at the end of the season. The story can be viewed at this link: Only in America.
We will warn you that you may need to sit through a 30 second advertisement before the clip plays.
Staff from the Australian Football League's Game Development Department recently met with the editorial staff of worldfootynews.com at AFL House in Melbourne. Over several hours it was a good opportunity for the AFL to explain their approach to a variety of international initiatives. It was also a chance for WFN to give our perspective on numerous issues facing leagues around the world, based on our experiences dealing with hundred of officials, players and fans - hopefully we represented some of your concerns and ideas well. The dialogue between the AFL and WFN first began back in 2005 and has expanded as the AFL ramp up their efforts in international game development. Both organisations found the meeting useful and are enthusiastic about continuing to do their part to assist with the spread of the sport.
In the coming weeks WFN should be able to reveal more details of the 2008 International Cup and over time there are several other ideas in the system we hope to be able to shed more light on.
Although our focus is mainly on international development, WFN likes to take some time to occasionally reflect on the world's elite Aussie Rules competition - the AFL. Traditionally the split round is regarded as a good time to review the season so far, with time to pause after 12 rounds gone with 10 to go before finals action. Two on field stories stand out this year, and they're very much related. One has been the return of attacking footy and the other is the return to strength of many Victorian clubs. There was early season doom and gloom that Victoria's AFL clubs were mostly a long way from winning a premiership and that other teams such as West Coast, Sydney, Adelaide and Fremantle were likely to continue their domination of the top four spots. Everyone had their view on "what was wrong with Victorian footy" and an official investigation was even launched. Here we are just a few months later and the top of the ladder is dominated by Victorian clubs - why the turn around and are they the real deal?
This recent article in the Age features Ireland among several Australian states in a map as one of the breeding grounds for AFL footballers.
While WFN hopes that other countries such as Papua New Guinea and South Africa may join this list in the near future, it does help to bring home the potential for outside of Australia into the mainstream. According to Kevin Sheehan in a recent Herald Sun article at least, South Africa will be next to deliver AFL talent, while AFL footballer Mal Michael is convinced that it will be PNG.
The Elgar Park Dragons, a mainly Vietnamese-Australian footy club who kicked-off in Melbourne this year, got a fairly impressive write-up in The Age newspaper today. The article mentioned some background to the Dragons, including the beginnings in the Multicultural Cup, plans to tour to Japan later this year, the substantial fan base starting to build at matches and the 4-5 winning record the Dragons have achieved so far - not bad for a start-up suburban club.
An extra item of interest (not in the Age's article) for the WFN readership - according to our sources, inaugral Dragons' captain Jiaming Pi (who's actually Chinese, rather than Vietnamese) was previously a key member of the Düsseldorf (now Rheinland) Lions in the AFL Germany.
As we hinted back in January, the Australian Football League seems likely to bring State of Origin football back in 2008 as part of the 150th celebrations for the early foundations of Australian Football. The series was once the pinnacle of Aussie Rules, with exciting, high standard matches surpassing the quality of any state league and with no international opposition it represented the best the sport could offer (though premiership success was still every player's ultimate goal). For various reasons it withered away and was finally ended. However support is on the rise. AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou has publicly stated his enthusiasm for the concept, and a pre-season survey of AFL captains was also very positive, adding to growing media and public calls for a return. Not everyone is in favour of it, but momentum for the series is gathering quickly and unlikely to be stopped. Here we'll look at the various recent opinions on bringing back Origin. Later we'll examine the history of interstate competition, why Origin died and why the push for it again.
The "feel good" story mentioned that his first introduction to footy was responding to an advertisement calling for football officials in a local Geelong league. Thinking that he was applying for a position as a soccer referee, he ended up taking the job. Since finding his feet,Tinashe has developed a love for footy and has become quite a skilled umpire.
A few AFL umpires could take a leaf out of his excellent repoir with the junior players.
The AFL/VFL Italian team of the century was named last Thursday night, with 22 of the best Italian-Australian footballers named in a side captained by the Adelaide Crows' Mark Ricciuto and featuring four brownlow medallists and two hall of famers. Selection was open to a field of 148 footballers with either a parent or grandparent born in Italy, from which a shortlist of 50 was announced recently. While not eligible for an on-field spot for the team (his great-grandparents were his most recent Italian-born ancestors), footballing legend and high profile supporter of international footy Ron Barassi Jnr was named as coach of the side.