The AFL Record is sold at AFL matches each week around Australia, and has an estimated weekly readership approaching 300,000. In the Round 21 edition a few weeks ago, the AFL's head of Game Development, David Matthews, wrote an article titled "The Wheel Turns", in which he discusses recent growth and hopes for new teams at the next International Cup. It appeared with a photo of New Zealand performing their Haka at the International Cup.
In the wake of the marvellously hard fought and stirring victory by the Sydney Swans at the AFL Grand Final, the following story from The Australian on Grand Final day is illuminating. Sean Fagan, a primarily Rugby historian whose main book is about the split between Rugby Union and Rugby League - "The Rugby Rebellion - the divide of league and union", writes how Australian football almost became the dominant code in the Harbour City by 1905.
With the Sydney Swans taking on the West Coast Eagles in the 2005 AFL Grand Final, it's quite possible that the Swans will be the "most supported" team in Australian football history. Naturally they'll have the large New South Wales support base, and other states such as South Australia seem happy to get behind the Sydney team, but the prevailing mood in Victoria is also to back them against the West. This comes from the club's history as formerly South Melbourne, and also the theory that a Sydney win would be "good for the game" in developing the NSW market. So all-in-all there will be unprecedented Aussie support for one of the Grand Final sides over the other. But there will also be a lot of support for the Swans from further afield, with reports that there is big interest in the match from Ireland with Sydney's Irishman Tadhg Kennelly fast becoming a star in both countries.
Looking for an AFL Grand Final Party or somewhere to watch the big game between the West Coast Eagles and the Sydney Swans and you're not in Australia? Here are a few places you can watch the match around the world, from New Zealand to North America.
The AFL funds quite a number of countries to pursue Aussie Rules programs. However the level of that funding is often a source of debate, with most countries naturally wanting more. The Age writer Caroline Wilson wrote an interesting article on August 14th about the future for South Africa and gave a breakdown of the major funding targets.
The 2005 AFL Grand Final is fast approaching, with four teams from four states still in the running - West Coast (WA), Adelaide (SA), Sydney (NSW) and St Kilda (Vic). A great tradition around the world is for Aussies to get together for Grand Final parties at pubs and clubs - anywhere that has a telecast of the game.
If venues or clubs would like to send us a very short piece of information on any such event they're having we'll put up a summary next week.
After their successful tour of South Africa in February 2005, the Convicts are set to do it all again in South America in February 2006. The Convicts Tour will feature two matches in Buenos Aires against the Argentine national team in what will be the first ever match between Australian and South American teams. The tour also includes sightseeing in Chile, Uruguay and Brazil, including a visit to Rio de Janeiro.
Over the past couple of decades traditional sports in Australia like Aussie Rules have found themselves in competition with new non-contact games like touch football (effectively touch Rugby). Social games such as that aren't likely to threaten the mass appeal of Australian football at the highest level, but they can undermine player numbers. As more people play them, particularly enjoying the flexibility of shorter games on weeknights in mixed sex environments, there can be a slow leak of numbers from traditional sports. Furthermore the players and their families become more familiar with related sports such as Rugby Union. The AFL's answer is Recreational Football.
Reports in last weekend's Sunday Times newspaper in the Western Australian capital Perth suggest that the grand finalists from this year's WAFL (Western Australian Football League, the state league feeding into the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers) will play an exhibition match in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) the weekend after this year's AFL grand final. Also mentioned in the article is the possibility of Perth hosting the 2008 International Cup, although this is still at the rumour stage.
The Barassi International Youth Tournament board will soon announce major sponsorship for next year's event with strong rumours suggesting the VFL Club (Virtually Forgotten Legends) will be joining the Barassi Tournament Board in presenting the 'VFL Club Barassi Youth Tournament 2006'.