Once the AFL's 2011 Australian Football International Cup was announced a large array of countries lined up as possible attendees. Inevitably this has thinned out as some nations decide they do not have the players or fundraising capability to get a large squad down to Australia for two full weeks.
Here is a quick snapshot of who we think are still in contention. Note it is an unofficial list, primarily summarising the results from interviews we've conducted.
For the women's it seems that despite the men from Italy waiting until 2014, the women still plan to make the journey. The list remains Ireland, PNG, USA, Italy, Canada and a combined Multicultural and Indigenous team. With a small number of countries one would think that makes getting all the international sides to IC2011 crucial for a vibrant tournament.
AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods was in Adelaide this week for the launch of a major AFL Fiji fundraiser by Port Adelaide's Fijian connection, David Rodan and Alipate Carlisle; more on that later. worldfootynews.com took the opportunity to sit down with Woods to discuss a range of issues about the sport's international growth, and some of Tony's thoughts will be featured across several articles.
High on the agenda was August's International Cup, with two questions that come up each Cup top of our list - what format will be used and what support will the AFL be offering competing countries.
US Revolution Head Coach, Matt Bishop, is excited and nervous about the big year ahead, with his team heading to the International Cup in Sydney and Melbourne in August. "The anticipation and anxiety levels have certainly shot up since the clock ticked into 2011. While there are many projects to be completed before the International Cup part of me wishes it was here already!"
First on the agenda for the team is a training camp in Austin Texas at the end of February. "The Revolution training squad has been reduced to 37 players and our main goal over the next six weeks is to reduce this to the 28 that will be travelling to Australia in August. Once we have selected the squad we will be monitoring the progress of the players through testing very similar to that used at the AFL Draft Combines. I believe that, in the future, the AFL will utilize the testing protocols they have developed to screen potential international talent and they have already given that indication with World XVIII applicants required to complete aspects of the testing.
Two IC11 matches will be staged as curtain raiser to AFL matches.
As per previous International Cups, the Grand Final will be played at the MCG, on Saturday the 27th of August prior to the Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn match.
There will also be a match before the Sydney v St Kilda game on Sunday the 21st of August at ANZ Stadium, Sydney - the two competing teams will be assigned once the final draw is done. It's likely to feature two of the top sides to showcase the increasing standard of international Aussie Rules.
The Australian Football League has also scheduled a lunch for the captains of the competing nations to be hosted by AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou. The lunch will be held in Melbourne on Thursday the 25th of August, 2011.
33 men's and women's teams have been nominated for the 2011 Australian Football International Cup, to be staged in Sydney and Melbourne in August.
The long list of possible newcomers in the men's competition is Indonesia, Italy, France, Vanuatu, Iceland, Fiji, East Timor, Croatia, Switzerland and depending on definition, Tonga, which competed in the multi-cultural section in 2008. At this stage all previous competing nations have nominated, except Spain (2005).
For the first time there will be a women's tournament, possibly featuring Ireland, PNG, USA, Italy, Canada and a combined Multicultural & Indigenous team.
Former Sydney Swans' captain Brett Kirk and his family are about to embark on his round the world odyssey promoting the 2011 International Cup. The International Cup Ambassador begins his six-month world tour today, Friday, January 28.
He will travel to more than 15 nations that will participate in the 2011 International Cup in August. His first stop is Sri Lanka. He will then continue to India, South Africa, Europe and North America.
“I look forward to working with and visiting nations which have embraced our game and are preparing for the International Cup,” Brett said.
The AFL today officially launched the 2011 AFL International Cup. Recently retired Sydney Swan Brett Kirk commencing his new role as an AFL Ambassador by announcing that Sydney will be one of the host cities for the fourth AFL International Cup carnival which will be held between August 13 and August 27, 2011.
The event will see over 1000 players and officials from 24 nations participate in the fortnight long event which will be officially opened in Western Sydney with games taking place across Sydney based AFL venues including the Greater Western Sydney Giants training ground Blacktown Olympic Park and ANZ Stadium.
The USAFL will be holding a training camp for the USA Revolution and USA Freedom teams in Austin, Texas the weekend of February 25-27.
The Revolution Coaches will be focusing on the preparation of players for the International Cup in Australia, in August 2011, and the camp will be used to finalize the squad for this tournament. Attendance at the camp is by invitation only. This camp is the culmination of a 2 year recruiting process implemented by Revolution Coach Matt Bishop and he is confident a very strong squad will be making the journey to Australia.
The AFL has confirmed the dates and locations for the 2011 International Cup.
We previously reported that Melbourne and Sydney were likely, and Queensland venues were also a chance, though less likely. The AFL have now stated that Melbourne and Sydney are locked in, but there will be no Queensland matches.
IC11 Competition Manager Josh Vanderloo stated in a letter to competing nations that:
"After considering requests from participating countries who nominated along with the recently released 2011 AFL fixture, we have made some changes to the scheduling of the 2011 International Cup.
We are excited to confirm the tournament will be played in both Sydney and Melbourne from Friday August 12 through to Saturday August 27, 2011.
We are committed to building on IC08 and through some enhancements to the tournament designed to reflect our expanding international vision, we believe we can deliver a better overall experience for all participating nations.
To date, the response from the International football community has been outstanding with an estimated 24 countries likely to take part in this celebration of our great game. In addition, we can also confirm that IC11 will include a female division for the first time".
The USAFL today announced on http://www.usafl.com that Leigh Barnes, former Executive Board Member and long time USAFL player, umpire, coach and administrator as the new national women's team coach who will be the coach of the Freedom for the women's division of the 2011 Internantional Cup in Australia.
The statement reads as follows “We are extremely pleased to have Barnesy on-board as the Freedom’s Head Coach, he brings with him many years of playing and coaching experience and a good nature that will enable him to bond well from day one with the team”, says Rich Mann, USAFL President.
The AFL is planning to host the next International Cup in August 2011 in Melbourne, Sydney and probably the Gold Coast or Brisbane. For the first time in Cup history the competing nations will be split into divisions. The AFL has told potential competitors that "IC11 will be run across multiple divisions - to be determined by the final number of entrants". That suggests that if there are enough teams there could even be three separate divisions.
The 2008 tournament was originally going to have a primary group and a developing nations group, but the final numbers saw the teams merged into one competition, with some demoralising losses. With some new footy nations expected to attend in 2011 and the top squads now very accomplished, a separation is clearly needed if 150+ point blow outs (even allowing for shortened games) are to be avoided.
And in another exciting development the world's national women's sides will be welcomed with their own division. Possibilities at this early stage may include Canada's Northern Lights, the USA Freedom, Papua New Guinea (who have been successful with girls competing in Queensland), South Africa (which has had girls playing as part of FootyWILD) and Ireland, which has recently been trying to begin a women's league. No word yet as to whether Australia would field a side, although that seems unlikely at this stage.
It seems highly likely that 2011 will see a record number of teams competing across men's, women's and in three different cities across Australia's east coast.
The Australian Football League has written to Australian football playing nations outlining its preliminary plans to stage the fourth Australian Football International Cup across three Australian states. They have called for nominations by Friday 27th August 2010.
The initial schedule suggests the welcoming evening will be in Melbourne (Victoria) on Saturday 6th August 2011, with two rounds of matches at Royal Park (Sunday 7th August and Wednesday 10th August).
The tournament would then move to Sydney (NSW) for two rounds (Sunday 14th August and Wednesday 17th August), including at Blacktown, home of the 18th AFL club, currently called Greater Western Sydney.
The finals (5th round) would then be played on the Gold Coast or in Brisbane (both in southeast Queensland), possibly in the vicinity of the AFL's 17th club the Gold Coast Suns, on Saturday 20th August, with a closing ceremony the following day.