The greatest growth in international Australian Rules Football in recent years has been in the island countries surrounding Australia. Their location makes this no surprise, but until the 1990s, there was no real sign of the developments to come. Now two strong countries have emerged, with New Zealand and Papua New Guinea numbers exploding, and several new nations have begun the struggle to establish the sport.
It was pleasing to see that international footy received some recognition in the Australian Football League's season review. Although small, it is another small step as the game's growth around the world receives more attention.
South Africa stands alone as a beacon for Aussie Rules in Africa (with the exception of some junior clinics in Kenya). If it can become a major sport in that country, there could easily be a natural spread to surrounding nations, as South Africa is the economic powerhouse of the continent, providing employment for hundreds of thousands of immigrants. World Footy News reviews last year's numbers in this third instalment of its 2004 census.
Greece have won the Australian Football Multicultural Cup for 2005, defeating traditional rivals Turkey by 14 points in the final. Eight sides, representing Melbourne's Croatian, Turkish, Greek, Vietnamese, Italian, Israeli, Lebanese and Aboriginal communities were on show, with the day held in great spirits in keeping with Harmony Day.
In good news for the many fans of Australian Rules Football outside Australia, several options for overseas fixtures are being considered for 2005 and 2006, with England, New Zealand, the US and United Arab Emirates all being mentioned.
World Footy News has often been criticised for its informal association with Brian Clarke's IAFC. Although we have argued that the only real linkage is the display of their logo and the volunteer work done by this author, the case has obviously not been made strongly enough. And clearly this author was sympathetic to their cause. However, it is our opinion that WFN has been held back by this perception. In this editorial we wish to make the clear distinction and in fact make it clear that even those loose ties have now been cut. I have thought long and hard about whether to air our reasons, but in fairness to all our supporters, and all the people I have lobbied on behalf of Brian Clarke, I feel they deserve an explanation of how this decision has come about over the lifetime of WFN.
In this, the second results article in the World Footy Census 2004 series, we look at the European nations. The region has great potential with so many countries close to each other, but it also faces many challenges. The development of Australian Football can be seen at many levels in Europe.
Every year, a number of people take the initiative and start having a kick in their previously footy-foreign area. Some plan clubs, others plan leagues, some have huge plans of conquering the world. Sometimes these gather momentum and take flight - but sometimes they don't...
WFN takes a look at a few of the clubs and leagues that never quite made it, as well as some who haven't made it yet, but have never given up.
The AFL website has gone through major redesign. Of extra interest to world footy news readers will be the section under Game Develoment / International Leagues - it's now much easier to find, even if it hasn't been expanded in some time!
After first going online in July/August of 2004, World Footy News has built up to an average of about 200 hits a day. Some times of year have been busier than others, depending on how much is going on out there in footy land - but overall, stats suggest that a core readership is developing of regulars who check by a couple of times a week.
One interesting statistic is where some of the readers seem to be coming from...