With the 2008 Australian Football International Cup starting in just 11 days, worldfootynews.com thought it would be timely to check out the grounds that will be used in Melbourne for rounds 1 and 2 and then the last round of finals.
Located just 3 km north of the CBD, the ovals have had a difficult year. Firstly drought, then extra matches as other games were transferred there, and now with some rain the centre square areas are getting muddy and chopped up. But the majority of the surfaces are well grassed and if the weather is kind the field conditions should be reasonable - it is after all a winter sport Down Under. Fans will appreciate being able to move easily from one match to the next.
The full report by WFN's Troy Thompson is below as a Youtube video.
The full British squad has been named, with a large list of 36 players. With most games likely to be 18 plus 6 interchange, and each nation playing 5 matches in a short space of time, having such a large list could be a real advantage in the later rounds as fatigue and injury take their toll.
The Japan Samurai have named their squad for the International Cup, with the squad drawn from the three Tokyo university clubs of Komazawa Magpies, Senshu Powers and Tokyo Leopards, as well as the university graduate team Eastern Hawks and the Osaka Dingoes.
As was the case at the last two cups, the team is fairly young and may be lacking in height, with only two players (Junji Tanaka from the Dingoes and Kohei Kamoshita from Komazawa University) standing 6 feet tall. However, the Samurai have in the past tended to be fairly quick and have pulled off a few wins.
Also included in the squad are seven players currently honing their footballing skills in Australia, two in the Warrnambool area, two in South Australia and three in Melbourne.
The improvement in South African football, expected over the next few years, may be coming on quicker than first thought. Although a cursory glance reveals abundant resources being pumped into the country, a slightly more considered opinion would suggest that since the development is mostly being done amongst children, the adult national side may not be greatly improved yet. However the national side, the Lions (formerly the Buffaloes) has in the past been dominated by North West province players. Given that they were given very competitive matches by the other three provinces at the recent National Championships, a host of new players have pushed their way into the squad, suggesting greater depth than in 2005. Combined with more regular domestic matches, the Lions could roar louder than expected in 2008.
One of the IC08 favourites, Papua New Guinea, has named their final squad, with all the vital statistics (listed below). Their tallest two players are 184cm, a fraction over 6 foot and clearly an issue that other teams will seek to exploit - if they can get the ball off the fleet footed runners.
PNG communications company Telikom have gotten behind the Mozzies' bid to win the AFL Australian Football International Cup for the first time. It's not often we see images of footy from PNG - pictured below are some of the players in action at Colts Oval in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
Getting a squad of 33 players, as well as officials, down to Australia is no small task for any of the countries heading to the 2008 Australian Football International Cup, and generous sponsors play a huge role. China was no exception, and although they committed to the process and will be a very exciting addition to international footy, up until quite recently there were still some doubts about getting the team to Australia - what a great opportunity lost if they had not made it. Fortunately a major sponsor in Mitchells and their Australian partner company, Oomiak, backed the Red Demons to the point that they will indeed be appearing at the IC08. Mitchells design, manufacture and install conveying and materials handling systems worldwide. Oomiak's expertise includes industrial refrigeration. The Mitchells website also features a great history of footy in China and their plans for the IC08.
The Allansford Football Club of the Warrnambool & District Football League are teaming up with Canada’s Northwind team when they travel to Warrnambool for the International Cup.
Allansford are providing their training facilities for Canada’s National team while they are in Warrnambool for their match against Ireland, as well as including the team in the club’s social activities to make the Canadian squad feel right at home in country Victoria.
The Northwind squad would like to offer thanks beforehand to everyone involved with Allansford Football Club for their generosity they are showing, and everyone from the Canadian team looks forward to a great experience when they arrive in Warrnambool.
Canada’s Northwind likes its chances as it enters into its final preparation for the 2008 International Cup. Speaking from Toronto, Northwind’s General Manager Martin Walter commented that the team’s management is very comfortable with where the team has been drawn. In a recent interview he commented "We have Finland up first on August 27th and we are now totally focused on that game, but at the end of the day, you have to beat them all and we believe we are capable of doing just that."
This is Northwind’s 3rd International Cup tournament and, while they have not been that successful in the past, this year’s team has a new look to it. "We have a new Coach plus we have managed to get a number of strong corporate sponsorships for this year’s cup, especially from the mining industry such as companies like Foraco Drilling, Quantec Geoscience and Laramide Resources Inc, all of which have business on both sides of the Pacific" Walter said. "This has put the team into a strong financial position, and that allows us to bring the best football talent that the Ontario Australian Rules Football League and other Canadian leagues have to offer."
In another step forward for international football development, five members of the South African Lions have donned the Swan Districts guernsey and played in the WAFL, one of Australia's top state leagues, under the watchful eye of the Fremantle Dockers. Furthermore, their trip was given excellent coverage in The West Australian newspaper. Pictured at left is Fremantle's Des Headland with 17 year old North West Province player Tshepiso Mogapi. There's also news that Collingwood and West Coast are increasingly likely to play in Cape Town next year.
The eligibility of players to represent their country at the International Cup has been the subject of some controversy in the past. The Australian Football League and the international football community, in general, have been keen to keep the spirit of the competition to be that players should truly represent the most appropriate country, such as where they were born and raised. The competition is not about expatriate Australians. However with such a fluid world in which people move and settle far and wide, a set of rules to satisfy the intended spirit is difficult.
For complete transparency, we've listed the AFL's official rules below. One thing is for certain, they are far more stringent than those of another sport seeking to grow internationally, Rugby League, in which players can compete for a country at their World Cup if they were born there, or their parents were, or even if only their grandparents were. It's tempting to describe that as farcical, but perhaps in the context of what they are trying to achieve, perhaps they have good reason. Each to their own.