You can catch up on the Irish footy league at www.arfli.com. The site also reports that Collingwood will once again host Ireland during the Cup. Given the Magpies now have two Irishmen on their list (Martin Clarke and Kevin Dyas) one hopes the club will be keen to look after the Warriors as best as possible. So far so good, with Ireland offered the "use of the world-class facilities at the Lexus Centre following their games in Melbourne. Further to this the Magpies are assisting Ireland with training tops, training sessions at Collingwood and a chance for the lads to meet the players and talk all things football". There's also a jumper up for auction - check out ARFLI for more details.
New Zealand's media are continuing to profile talented members of the Falcons' squad. Those in developing football markets would be only too aware of how this helps to promote a minority sport to current and future sponsors as well as attract potential players and generate increased awareness.
Scott Morgan of NZ's Sunday paper, The Sunday Star Times, had this to say about quality Mt Roskill and NZ Falcons' on-baller Lewis Hurst...
The New Zealand Falcons will return to defend their title. This is a country that has been competitive with the very best from Darwin’s Arafura Festival through to their stand-out performance to date in winning the tournament in 2005. They appear certain to make it through to the semi-final round, and it will take a complete performance to knock them out of Cup contention.
The Papua New Guinea Mosquitoes, with the great support of PNG Telikom in particular, are back at their third International Cup hoping to revisit their great days at the Arafura Festivals in Darwin. There they were undefeated by the other international teams, many including some fine Australian expatriate players, but as yet they remain the bridesmaids of the International Cup going down to Ireland in 2002 and New Zealand in 2005.
They have been one of their nation’s most successful Junior and Senior National teams over many years. Wearing the Black, Red and Gold in matches, both on PNG soil and in Australia, they have always been hard to beat for more than 40 years. In recent times their juniors have dominated the Queensland Country Junior Championships and in 2007 won the QLD Girls Under 16 State Titles in Cairns. With many more players now gaining invaluable experience in Australia via scholarships, it will take a mighty performance to squash these Mozzies.
As one of the debut nations at the third International Cup, Finland might not be expected to wrack up too many wins (we'll preview them shortly), but they will be sporting a winning jumper, coming in at number one in our recent poll.
Of 295 votes, the Finns received 51 votes (approximately 17%), to record a comfortable win over Canada with their maple leaf on 37 (13%), Ireland's Celtic dragon with 33 (11%) and Great Britain's Union Jack on 30 (10%). Surprisingly coming in last was Samoa on 4 votes (just over 1%). That seems harsh given the impressive Kangaroo design - maybe it just reflects a lack of either Samoan readers or North Melbourne fans.
Open up the story for a much closer look at Finland and Samoa's jumpers. And for those that follow AFL politics - the "big question" - will Samoa have to wear a clash jumper in the unlikely event they take on Finland? (Controversially North Melbourne are forced to change their jumper when they play Collingwood as it is deemed to clash, even if North are the home side).
In August 2008, the US national team, the American Revolution or "Revos" as they are affectionately known, head to Australia to take on the best teams in the world to win the Australian Football International Cup. In 2005, the Revos finished a very respectable third after beating 2002 winners, Ireland twice. However, the Revos were disappointed to go down to PNG in their pool match and will be looking for an improved performance in 2008.
New Zealand held their final training camp over the weekend of July 4th-7th under adverse weather conditions, which is nothing new in the Land of the Long White Cloud! A strong defence of their title is expected and they have named an even squad with players from across their four football regions.
Speaking with 2005 Cup winning coach and now NZ Media Liaison Officer Jim Lucy, he said “Personally I feel it is a good squad, very fit, with a good game plan and an even spread of experience and youth. Our average age (is) 24 which is the same as last campaign but probably has a few less ‘oldies’ and a lot more experienced players. Having 5 guys based in Australia honing their skills is a real bonus”.
The Swedish Elks will make their International Cup debut this year, after an eventful past few years saw them explode from one club in Helsingborg to regular footy being played in over a dozen cities across the country.
The Elks won last year's EU Cup and have a fierce rivalry with Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Finland. Now they want to take on the world's best and prove they are the real deal.
Coaching the Elks in Melbourne and Warrnambool will be Cameron Crooks, a native Melburnian who played club footy for Tullamarine and played elite junior footy alongside a number of current AFL champions.
It's a standard tournament format and makes for a good system, but does have two major drawbacks. It pits some of the world's least developed football nations against the very best (outside of Australia). And assuming the form hasn't changed markedly since 2005, it's unlikely that the first three rounds will see any blockbuster matches between the top teams - in fact there will be some awfully large losses dished out.
Based on expected form, it looks like a fairly clear run for the big four from 2005, i.e. New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the United States and Ireland. The toughest semi-final position to win may well be in Pool C, where the Stars and Stripes of the US Revolution will have to contend with the rising stars from South Africa. If they have improved the Africans may challenge the Americans, but if not the Danes may even give the South African Lions a run for their money. Other likely pivotal matches include Round 2's Samoa versus Japan, and Nauru versus Great Britain.
The Australian Football League has released the much anticipated draw for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup. The AFL had felt a two division format was most likely (effectively separated between elite and developing nations), with anywhere between 12 and 18 teams on the cards. But with the final number of teams coming in at 16, and most of them wishing to play in the main draw, a late decision was made to merge them into one division. This gives the tournament a very fair structure, with 4 pools of 4 teams, each side playing the others within their pool once, with the top team in each going through to the main semi-finals (and similarly lower finishing teams playing off against each other).
The previously alluded to Multicultural section outside the main draw has also been released, with "Team Africa" representing Melbourne's recent African immigrants and playing three matches, against each of South Africa (as a practice game for them), Tonga (unable to commit to the full draw) and "Team Asia".
All the rounds, times and venues are listed below.