Zimbabwean-born Tinashe Nyatsanga took up upiring footy while at university in Geelong. After umpiring local Geelong and Bellarine Football League matches, he was one of the umpires able to officiate at the match between South Africa and the Clontarf Academy in Perth recently. An account of his trip is featured on the AFL website here, let's hope he's a sign of things to come in the increasing multiculturalism of Australian rules.
In the latest round of Footy Shorts we report on the good form of Colm Begley leading to controversy in Ireland, with the young gun showing impressive form just 18 months since starting out in Australian Football. And there's the strange but apparently true story of thieves stealing water from a football club in Brisbane - perhaps not surprising given the degree to which drought is now hurting much of Australia, perhaps even to the point of threatening footy.
Here are a few snippets of footy info from around the web over the past few weeks, with signs of increasing professionalism in South Africa, Jason Akermanis again pushing the AFL to embrace Japan, and Essendon translating part of their website into Japanese.
One of the ongoing complaints of Aussie Rules fans outside of Australia is the lack of access to watching AFL matches. Although the AFL website offers video streaming of games there have been plenty of people unhappy with its reliability and image quality. The dream for many supporters has been to get coverage on readily accessible cable/satellite television in their country. AFANA has long been at the forefront of pushing for this in North America and in 2006 the efforts of the Setanta network were generally well received. Now 2007 looks like a great advance, with Setanta locked in to AFL coverage through to 2011, adding unprecedented certainty. The network are also offering more live games and extending the service to Ireland and the United Kingdom in a move that can only assist the profile of the game.
The 2007 AFL season has opened with the second best minor round attendance in the history of the VFL/AFL. With 364,544 people attending the eight games in round one, the average was 45,568 per match, a great turnout across the nation. The biggest show was the re-match of last year's Grand Final blockbuster between West Coast and Sydney. Such matches are often described as "replays" of the Grand Final, and this one certainly turned out that way with the Eagles again home by just one point - the third successive one point result between the two clubs. With 62,586 fans in to watch the match, it was the highest minor round attendance between two non-Victorian sides. Obviously such a record is made possible by Sydney's Telstra Stadium having a greater capacity than any other footy stadium outside of Melbourne, but it still stands as a great sign for Australian Football's continued growth in New South Wales, the country's most populous state.
For our international readers, Australia is currently struggling with a severe drought which while it has had devasting economic consequences for the whole nation, areas outside the major cities have been particularly hard-hit by the loss of both income from agriculture and young people who migrate to the state capitals for work.
Another outcome of the drought is the slow collapse of water supply, both in the major cities and the country, where water restrictions have meant that many sports grounds are turning to dustbowls over summer.
With an ever-increasing number of sports grounds off-limits due to a lack of any grass cover, a new website has recently been launched under the title SaveFooty.com - where money is being raised to install rainwater tanks and encourage the use of recycled water on sports field. While the site is currently based around Aussie Rules clubs, rugby league, rugby union and soccer clubs are also intended to benefit from the charitable actions to save grass-roots footy from the drought.
Australia’s indigenous population is very important for football. The indigenous community makes up only 3 per cent of Australia’s population and yet a staggering 12 per cent of players in the AFL are regarded as indigenous Australians. Last week the AFL and the Federal Government took a step to strengthen this relationship, establishing a $2.4 million program centred on encouraging indigenous Australians to take up Australian Rules.
The Adelaide Football Club has inadvertently demonstrated just how long the journey may be for any other country to be in a position to be competitive against a true All-Australian senior side. Back in 2005 top Victorian country club Maffra flattened New Zealand before the Kiwis went on to win the second International Cup. Again in 2006 the Falcons were on the end of some hidings at the hands of country representative sides at the Australian Country Championships. Those results demonstrated the gulf between quality country players and the best international footy had to offer, but the Adelaide Crows recently showed just how big the gap is between the top two tiers of Australian Football within Australia itself.
In an interesting piece of news, a source at the AFL tells us that two Chinese sportsmasters recently visited Melbourne for a week-long workshop centered around Aussie Rules coaching and administration. According to the AFL's Josh Vanderloo, "Essentially, our international plan with countries such as China, India, Argentina and I would think Pakistan, involves identifying key personnel who can be trained over a week in Melbourne and return to their home country and begin teaching AFL to others. We feel this is a cost effective way to introduce the game to new countries and by providing basic resources and working through the language barriers, this form of training should be a good starting point. So to answer your questions, we are keen to follow this method of 'training the trainer' to help the country find their feet at a very basic level".
Also on this topic, Vanderloo tells us the planned visit of two development officials from India has been delayed by visa problems (as also happened when the last visit by an Indian squad was organised through the second version of the IAFC a few years ago), but that they are intending to organise another time for the Indians to visit. (WFN tried to help ensure the visa issue was solved in time but obviously not successfully.)
A program such as this could be the best starting point for a program in countries such as those listed above, particularly as the impetus in India, Pakistan and Argentina is largely reliant on locals rather than ex-pat Australians.
Aussie Rules fans around the world can now get a weekly dose of AFL gossip and news presented in a humourous style on Youtube. Footy Wrap is the brainchild of director and comedian Jeff Wortman, who teams up with Paul Hogan (not the one of Crocodile Dundee fame). The duo write and film their show from converted warehouse space in Fitzroy each week. Several episodes have already appeared on Youtube and WFN thought the light entertainment might be of interest to our audience and the the Footy Wrap guys were happy to hear they might be getting an expanded international following.