After another big year in which the AFL secured a record TV rights deal, crowds have been the second best on record and teams from across the nation featured in the final eight, it all comes down to Saturday 30th September - AFL Grand Final Day. In a repeat of last year's heart stopper, the Sydney Swans again take on the West Coast Eagles, the minor premier.
Editor: The number of AFL clubs based in Melbourne has long been debated, and indeed there is little opposition to the view that if the VFL had not embraced the national concept, bringing in license fees and extra TV audiences from other states, often with over a century of footy tradition of their own, then many clubs would not have survived. But can they continue to support so many teams, some of which rely on an uneven distribution of funds to stay afloat? The AFL's recent funding announcements make it clear they wish to maintain the 16 clubs. This is a highly emotive topic that is not directly related to international development (though there are some linkages), and is an area WFN has deliberately steered away from. However our intrepid new reporter Ash has now launched headlong into the debate with some controversial views of his own.
Brian Dixon is about to begin an ambitious new Aussie Rules crusade across the world. The former Melbourne Football Club champion and founder of the well known Life. Be in it. campaign in Australia has been a driving force in getting footy in South Africa recognised and supported. South Africa remains his number one focus but through his other sporting contacts he has begun exploring options in China, Argentina, India, the Philippines and Cuba. WFN had a chat to Dixon about his work and any useful contacts we could provide.
The Australian Football Association of North America (AFANA) is conducting a poll aimed at footy fans from the US and Canada. They've also begun taking AFL Grand Final Party announcements for all parts of the world. This is a great resource for roaming Aussies and other Aussie Rules fans to make sure they enjoy the big day wherever they may be.
Since the 2005 International Cup the Australian
Football League has conducted an extensive review of how it approaches
international development of the game. This has resulted in the
appointment of a new high powered International Development Committee and five
contact points within the AFL for the nominal five regions of Africa, America, Oceania, Asia and Europe. Other major revelations include confirmation of Melbourne as the likely 2008 International Cup venue, with a four year cycle thereafter, and hopes that the cost of attendance can be significantly offset.
The AFL's head of Game Development, David Matthews, has announced an agreement between AFL South Africa and the North-West Cricket Association which will provide Aussie Rules football with access to cricket ovals, sponsorship and a massive player base. Crucially, in an interview with a Melbourne newspaper, Matthews has tied together many of the threads that are strong topics of debate amongst supporters of international footy. He has clearly put forth the case for significantly increasing funding to South Africa, and the response from the AFL community in the coming months will be vital in determining the future direction of our sport.
In part one of our interview with AFL Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan we discussed the AFL's plans for a new International Development Committee featuring influential people from within the AFL's structure, and funding issues for affiliates and potential new countries to the international Australian Football scene. In the second and concluding part of the interview we discuss a possible international Scholarship program, AFL club interest in South Africa, and the third International Cup in 2008.
There have been a lot of questions floating around about what direction the Australian Football League will take regarding international development of Australian Football. In recent years they have been slowly building their commitment, in-line with the benefits that can clearly be seen, such as growing player numbers and a much improved standard at the last International Cup. But there have also been doubts and rumours of changes. worldfootynews.com is pleased to present a detailed interview with Kevin Sheehan, the AFL's Talent Manager, now incorporating the role of International Manager.
One of the AFL's initiatives to encourage more New South Wales youngsters into Aussie Rules is now underway. Whilst as many as a dozen Queenslanders may make their AFL debuts in 2006, testimony to the great strides being made in that state, the greater Sydney area remains relatively unsuccessful at generating draftees. The apprenticeship system now being put in place allows and in fact requires each of the 16 AFL clubs to take on a younger player from NSW, hopefully to increase their development and provide an incentive to other talented juniors that have a choice of many sports. It's hoped this will be extended to international juniors.