Some of South Africa's finest cricketers were introduced to Australian football and the AFL South Africa program today. Pictured above are, left to right, South Africa’s Lonwabo Tsotsobe, the AFL’s Jason McCartney who coached the AFL South African team at IC08, Collingwood’s Sharrod Wellingham and pace bowler Makhaya Ntini.
A group of South African cricketers and staff, including Johan Botha, Makhaya Ntini, Hashim Amla and Albie Morkel, visited the Lexus Centre in Melbourne to meet Collingwood players and staff, including captain Nick Maxwell, Harry O’Brien, Sean Rusling and Anthony Corrie, as well as AFL staff David Matthews, Kevin Sheehan, Jason McCartney and Kevin Sheedy. South Africa are currently touring Australia, and although they lost the recent Twenty20 matches, they won the series that counted most - knocking off the Test champions 2 wins to 1.
According to a press release, members of the South African touring party have developed an interest in Australian Rules football having seen how the game has grown in South Africa in recent years, with 17,300 participants now registered in South Africa. Coach Mickey Arthur explained that he follows the sport having gained an interest through his name who happened to be the brother of former AFL player Matthew 'Spider' Burton. The cricketers appeared to enjoy kicking the footies around.
Amla (pictured below studying a football), already a star in Test cricket and touted as a future captain of South Africa, was interviewed on Collingwood TV (warning to international readers, Bigpond probably not available) and although he conceded (whilst dodging football's) that he was unaware of the game being played in his homeland, he could see it had possibilities. Kevin Sheedy gave the cricketers a presentation on AFL South Africa's grass-roots work and was also interviewed.
The Perth Now website reports that AFL club Fremantle will continue with their efforts in South Africa in early 2009 despite the cancellation of the NAB Cup AFL match between Collingwood and West Coast.
According to Dockers chief executive Steve Rosich, "The Fremantle Football Club's community development staff will be conducting a range of activities in South Africa's North West Province in February 2009 and we will continue to work with the AFL to assist in developing strategies to expand the code in South Africa".
"We have long-term agreements with our strategic partners in South Africa, including Nkwe Platinum, Continental Capital and Air Mauritius, and we are committed to our efforts in the North West Province".
Curiously the article states that "The Dockers made a $200,000 profit from their exhibition match against Carlton in Pretoria last February". Our understanding was that the figure was money to be ploughed back into South African development. The article does also say that "Fremantle is on the verge of appointing a SA development officer, to be based in North West Province".
It also reports that "The Eagles, Dockers, Collingwood and Carlton have until late next year to confirm their commitment to future football development in SA".
The AFL today confirmed the speculation in the past week that the Cape Town NAB Cup match between Collingwood and West Coast would be called off due to the global financial crisis, which has seen financial backers withdraw from the venture. Perhaps conveniently this news is swamped by the ongoing saga of one man, Ben Cousins who today was picked up in the Pre-Season Draft by the Richmond Football Club.
While the loss of this match is a massive blow to those in South Africa, in the past week there have been both media articles and posts on football forums by both Collingwood and West Coast supporters who see the match being played in Australia as a big bonus for them. On a positive note for football development in South Africa, it was confirmed that the AIS AFL Academy would tour South Africa for the third year in a row in 2009.
The following is the statement released by the AFL this afternoon:
Melbourne's Herald Sun is reporting that the AFL's NAB Cup match in Cape Town is in doubt due to sponsors pulling out, citing the global financial crisis. AFL corporate affairs manager Brian Walsh said: "A few of our key stakeholders have reviewed their commitment to the game in the context of the world financial situation. We are now looking at that, and what the implications might be for the game".
International AFL matches such as this are largely funded by sponsorship money and rely on corporate packages. In the current economic conditions companies are spending less, and more importantly, want to be seen to be spending less (there have been some high profile cases of public shaming in the United States where company spending has been seen as excessive). The AFL has also advised all clubs to tighten their belts and trumpeted that they are doing the same, whilst also facing growing pleas for further money from clubs such as Melbourne.
In this context it would be quite understandable if the AFL was forced to cancel, and perhaps quite difficult for them to proceed without the sponsors, but it would be a real shame for the South African players and supporters. It has been a decade since the only official AFL match in South Africa (last year's Carlton versus Fremantle game was just an exhibition pre-season game), and taking away the much anticipated return of AFL would send the wrong signals after much recent effort to assure that international development is important.
The Herald Sun article reports that the AFL will likely make a decision in the next few days, and that "It is believed only a last-minute sponsorship arrangement being sought by the AFL can save the match from being transferred back to be played in Australia".
Although the move would not be the end of the world for the South African program it would send the wrong message - let's hope a white knight sponsor emerges, or the AFL Executive makes the tough but strategic call to keep their eye on the game's international growth. In times past the sport's administrators have recoiled and international development has died off - this would be a great opportunity to take a stand for the future. Australian football has given other sports a century head start - now may be the perfect time to make up some of that ground.
AFL South Africa's Western Cape Provincial Development Manager, Allison Simons, has been appointed to a new National role as footyWILD Futures Manager. With her time courtesy of Australian Volunteers International coming to an end, it was important she not be lost to the country.
Simons is remarkably well credentialled with her life already having covered a wide spectrum. She grew up in Kenya, moved to Australia where she studied and played football, and is the recipient of First Class Honours in Archaeology and Anthropology and has a PhD in African Archaeology (see Out of Africa - and back - Allison's football journey). Her new appointment seems to cement her in a career in the wonderful but no doubt challenging field of promoting Australian football in South Africa.
The AFL have released some promotion for the upcoming Collingwood versus West Coast match in Cape Town. Pleasingly the video launched via their website features a background on the South African national side, which should serve to educate fans in both Australia and South Africa that the sport is now on the ground in South African communities. No word yet as to whether the commercial will be aired on television in Cape Town.
The game is scheduled for 12:10pm South African time on Saturday 7th February 2009 at Sahara Park, Newlands, Cape Town, and is the start of the 2009 NAB Cup. After the match, locals sides Khayelitsha and Nyanga go head-to-head.
The AFL has confirmed that Collingwood will play West Coast in the NAB Cup (AFL pre-season competition) in South Africa. The clubs will face off at Newlands Cricket Ground, a Test cricket venue in Cape Town. To accommodate the match and other scheduling issues, the first round of the NAB Cup will span three weeks. The full fixture is here.
Cape Town is the second most populous city in South Africa and the provincial capital of the Western Cape, as well as the legislative capital of South Africa, where the National Parliament and many government offices are located. Western Cape is one of the four provinces being developed by AFL South Africa. Although participation in Aussie Rules is growing rapidly in South Africa, it will be a challenge to get a large crowd to this match, so hopefully a major media campaign will be used to raise awareness leading up to the game. Newlands hosted Brisbane versus Fremantle back in 1998, drawing 10,000 spectators. It's current seating capacity is 25,000. Regardless of crowd figures, the match will be a tremendous boost for the local players and development staff.
The game is 12pm local time, 9pm Australian Eastern Daylight Savings time, on February 7th. It follows the successful UAE match between Adelaide and Collingwood early this year.
AFL club St Kilda today announced that it has delisted several players and among them is South African born rookie Luke van Reenen.
The 201cm ruckman, who started playing football in suburban South East Melbourne was yet to debut at AFL level and had an ordinary run of games and injury (Injuries slow internationals) with the Casey Scorpions. At 20 years of age and without a senior game to his name it is unlikely that van Rheenen will be picked up in the upcoming drafts.
11 years after their first and only venture to Cape Town in South Africa (Brisbane versus Fremantle in 1998), the AFL looks set to return in February 2009. A NAB Cup match between Collingwood and West Coast has been discussed for some time now and looks set to be officially launched next week, according to Melbourne paper the Herald Sun.
It will be staged during African Mining Indaba, "the world's largest gathering of mining stakeholders", with an eye on increasing sponsorship opportunities. Carlton and Fremantle played an exhibition match in Pretoria in the 2008 pre-season (see Dockers down Blues in Pretoria). Hopefully it will again be held in conjunction with matches involving local South African players.
Australian football and Zimbabwe have recently been back in the news after a few years’ hibernation. The recently reformed and renamed Australian Football Zimbabwe has plans in place to see junior footy clinics begin in the first half of next year, with the creation of school teams and a men’s national team in the pipeline.
We spoke to AFZ’s Larry Ferrier about the program’s development so far.