There is no doubt that AFL South Africa has been a stunning success so far. They are spending a year consolidating their amazing growth of up around 17,000 players across a number of communities, seeking to expand within those fixed programs rather than roll out further areas. It has been speculated before that if the program is successful then the AFL may look to other African nations. The big questions are what defines success and might they spend a decade proving the long term viability before any further moves?
For those that feared an undue level of conservatism it is pleasing to report that the AFL has already begun to look at other opportunities. Or more accurately, other African countries are looking to the AFL. We were aware of discussions with media from several other African countries in terms of showcasing the game, but the AFL Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan has revealed to worldfootynews.com that Botswana and Kenya are the front runners for FootyWILD programs, with Ghana also in the mix.
A common complaint by people trying to promote Australian football around the world is that it's often difficult to show people the game regularly as it isn't on television very much. Happily Africa is getting some coverage in 2009, with 1 game per week and possibly a one hour package. Unfortunately it is almost certainly subscription based, however talk of producing local content relating to AFL South Africa is encouraging. The regions that should have access are:
Sub-Saharan Africa, that is, the continent of Africa – including Cape Verde, the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, St. Helena, São Tomé & Príncipe, and the Seychelles – other than Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Western Sahara. And Israel.
The Salamander Company, looking after commercial activities for AFL South Africa, recently announced that:
The Salamander Company is pleased to announce that global sports broadcaster ESPN will broadcast one AFL match per week into Africa through the DSTV network.
The Salamander company will work with ESPN to look at ways to enhance the broadcast of AFL matches in the region including the production of local television content focusing on the growth and development of footyWILD in South Africa.
Unfortunately for international footy fans there were no real surprises in Paarl, Cape Town on Monday as the South African Lions received a football lesson from the elite Australian youth side. The final margin was a crushing 132 points, and will no doubt raise some questions about the benefit to the African program.
The case remains that there are pros and cons. Without the contest then the relevance of the tour to the AIS program would have to be in question, and that could have ramifications both in South Africa and Australia. On the downside the defeat must be disheartening to the Lions, especially since they were fielding an open age side. A positive for younger talent is that it shows them what level is required, and of course the associated assistance and exposure that comes with the tour. At the end of the day it probably depends on how the expectations of all involved are managed before the match.
Kicking goals for the Lions were Jawe, Motubu, Malinga - all three were proven performers at the 2008 International Cup. It was encouraging to see some of the younger talent from IC08 making the best players, such as Prinsloo, Sifanelo and Boki, as well as a new name in Xmasa. At time of writing we're unsure of what preparation the South Africans had coming into this game, so perhaps a lack of match practice was an issue. At the end of the day, the margin was not unexpected, with many of the elite Australian squad likely to be drafted at year's end, and the next wave of South African players only just beginning to emerge.
The following is a match report and a spectacular photo courtesy of the AFL.
Supporters of international Australian football often hope that as newcomers to Australia take up our game that their talents will be recognised by AFL scouts, ultimately leading to greater interest in international recruitment, i.e. immigrants playing the game will open Australian eyes to international development. It's also just great to see more people taking up the sport.
One of the groups that have been viewed as likely prospects are the many recent tall athletic Sudanese immigrants. Many of them seem to take up soccer, but slowly Aussie Rules is picking up converts. This would probably accelerate if a Sudanese youngster made it to AFL level. But even someone making state league level must be an inspiration to some of the young players being offered a choice between sports.
So it is good to see Andrea Miar, a 23 year old Sudanese refugee, has been doing well in the new Tasmanian state wide league. We reported in New state league for Tasmania that 2009 would see this competition sit above the northern and southern Tassie leagues, and Andrea Miar's side, Launceston, is one of those competing at the top level.
Miar moved to Launceston, Tasmania, with his family when he was 9 years old. He's now studying information technology at a TAFE (technical college), and excelling on the footy field as an agile ruckman. With plenty still to learn about Australian football, Miar should still have a lot of improvement to come. An AFL call-up is highly unlikely, though if a 24 year old Canadian Rugby player can make the leap, perhaps he's worth a gamble?
Melbourne daily newspaper The Age this weekend reported that the AFL will be holding draft camp-style tryouts in the South African cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg, coinciding with the upcoming tour to South Africa by the AIS-AFL under-17 squad.
Similar to the Western Bulldogs' trials in Fiji earlier this year, the project will be partly focussed on recruiting athletes from other sporting backgrounds for the existing AFL South Africa senior programs, as well as selecting up to four South Africans for the "Mtutuzeli Hlomela Scholarship" to attend the AFL Draft camp in Australia later this year.
The league has placed advertisements in Cape Town newspapers calling for boys between 15 and 19 with strong sports backgrounds, who stand a minimum 175 centimetres and weigh at least 70 kilograms, to attend a testing day at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa at Newlands, with follow-up testing also planned. A session near Johannesburg, featuring about 30 boys already identified, will also be held.
AFL talent manager Kevin Sheehan said that having introduced the junior program FootyWild to South Africa two years ago, the league's next responsibility was to create an ongoing pathway for talented players.
For the third year in a row the AIS-AFL Australian Under 17 squad will head off to South Africa (departing tomorrow, Sunday 12th April) for a tour that will include training, sight-seeing, working with the locals and a match against the South Africa Lions.
It's expected that the Lions will be a senior squad similar to that which finished third at last year's International Cup and was ranked fourth in the world behind only Australia, PNG and New Zealand in our 2008 rankings. Jason McCartney is expected to again coach the Africans and a few new talented juniors will be given an opportunity. AFL South Africa Operations Manager Joel Kelly told worldfootynews.com that "Several invitational spots (are) being offered to new ‘yet to be identified talent’ as part of a broader search".
The match will be played at Boland Park, Capetown at 3:30pm on Monday 20th April - it has been moved from the better known Newlands due to the sudden transfer to South Africa of Indian's Premier League cricket tournament because of terrorism fears on the sub-continent. Boland Park is described as being in Paarl, "in the beautiful wine district of the Western Cape".
Gold Coast's coach, Guy McKenna, has also been mentioned as making the trip, despite his team underway in the TAC Cup. No doubt his attention will mostly be on Australia's next wave, but given the willingness to sign up two Papua New Guinea players already, surely he will also be very interested in the performance of the younger South African players.
The trip is book-ended by matches against VFL and WAFL sides in Australia. More details follow below.
When Australian Football was starting to ramp up again in South Africa in 2005 a talented young Rugby Union player was introduced to the foreign sport, suiting up for what was then the South African Buffaloes to play against the touring Convicts, a mixed bag of Australian footballers on tour for footy and fun.
The player in question was Duane Vermeulen, already a mountain of a young man. Although new to Aussie Rules he showed tremendous promise at fullback, winning the best player award in the Convicts versus Gauteng Province match. Vermeulen was in training for the 2005 International Cup but according to then coach Steve Harrison, he "broke his hand a couple of weeks before we named the final squad". Harrison had no doubt the young man had talent to burn. "I was spewing because he was a gun".
South African footy was keen to keep Vermeulen as a Buffalo (or under the new image today he would've become a Lion). But in a Rugby mad nation, particularly amongst the white population, and with the IC2005 opportunity gone, it was always likely that he would pursue greater opportunities in Rugby. And so it was that he quickly progressed to become a key player for the Cheetahs in the Rugby Super 14s, the peak southern hemisphere Union club competition that pits 5 clubs from South Africa against 5 from New Zealand and 4 from Australia.
Vermeulen, who plays as a No. 8, has now been head-hunted to Western Cape's Stormers, and has at times been talked about as possibly being called up to South Africa's national Rugby side in future. That would make him the Buffalo/Lion who became a Cheetah and a Springbok. But for AFL South Africa he's a case of the one that got away.
Former players and staff from the Fremantle Football Club crossed the Indian Ocean early today for a week long AFL community camp in the North West Province of South Africa.
The club has called on past players Troy Cook, Justin Longmuir and Luke Webster to assist Fremantle’s Community Development staff in the further development of AFL football in Fremantle’s allocated province.
Cook, Longmuir and Webster will work with the club’s Community Development staff to teach young children in South Africa the necessary skills to compete in the South African Auskick-equivalent ‘FootyWild’.
The travelling party will also have the opportunity to review the development of the North West Province’s talented senior players during a training session on Saturday 14 February. Players will travel from all around the region to participate in this session.
Despite the transfer of the West Coast versus Collingwood NAB Cup match from Cape Town to Subiaco, Perth, the two Western Australian AFL clubs, West Coast and Fremantle, are still keen to play an official match in South Africa in 2010.
The AFL is hoping to return to South Africa in 2010, although a final decision on whether a sanctioned fixture can take place overseas won’t be made until later this year.
Fremantle strategic partnerships general manager, Darren Beazley, has secured commercial partnerships with Nkwe Platinum, Continental Capital and Air Mauritius and [Fremantle chief executive] Rosich said the club intended to foster those contacts.
"We are sending a community development team to South Africa to our province, the North-West province, from February 12 to 16 and that will include a coaching clinic in the Limpopo province".
That's interesting, because Freo's zone, the North West Province, is a long way from Limpopo which borders Kruger National Park in the north east.
Although AFL South Africa lost its marquee event for 2009, the NAB Cup match between Collingwood and West Coast in Cape Town (now moved to Subiaco due to sponsor issues blamed on the global financial crisis), there's still a very busy schedule of exciting events planned.
worldfootynews.com spoke with Operations Manager Anthony "Joel" Kelly, Lions captain Mtutu Hlomela and North West Provincial Development Manager July Machethe, about what will be yet another exciting year for the game in this footy hotspot, which includes tours by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Geelong College, as well as a development camp by Fremantle and the launch of further programs focussed on footy, health, education and employment.