There's been a couple of good reports on Game 2 of the South African development team versus the Australian Indigenous side. The two sides met in kwaMashu (near Durban) and with plenty of local promotion a crowd variously stated as "over 1000" and "2500" turned up to cheer on the home nation (and boo the Aussies - at least they're passionate!)
Pleasingly the match got some local press, something that Australian Football hasn't had a lot of in South Africa thus far, at least not showing up in on-line searches (which admittedly may not be the best resource in a country such as this).
Read Yusuf Moolla's report, Local ground transformed into Australian football field, online in South Africa's The Mercury. The image to the right of the article suggests it was accompanied by an action photo from the game. AFL Commissioner Colin Carter was on hand to witness the game's early growth in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
The Aboriginal side pulled away in the first three quarters of the 16-a-side match, but obviously the locals were competitive. In what was presumably a sporting gesture to test their own players and allow the South Africans a chance to fight back in front of their supporters, the Boomerangs played with 14 on the field towards the end. The Buffaloes duly fought back with five unanswered goals, much to the delight of locals. But the Australians hung on to win 11.10 (76) to 8.9 (57).
After their 100 point loss to the Australian Boomerangs side, South Africa's developmental team headed down to Kwa Zulu Natal province to pick up some more talented locals ready for Game 2 in Kwa Mashu, near Durban, on Wednesday 6th February. We'll have a report on that match as soon as possible.
Next up is the third and final match, again to feature a large contribution of locals, this time in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, in the Western province. Local development officers have been talking up the event to get the community involved, advertising the match as the first ever international Australian Football game to be held in Cape Town. Details are:
Khayelitsha Cricket Oval (Town 2, behind Law Courts), Saturday 9th February
Performances by the Kwaito Group "All Blacks" and traditional dance group "Imduyekezo Mat", music by DJ D Lo, competitions, prizes and giveaways.
12pm Curtain raiser - Nyanga vs Khayelitsha under 13s
2pm Main game - South Africa vs Australia (Indigenous Youth Team)
4pm Speeches and medal presentation
6pm Post-match function at Mzoli’s, Guguletu
Just a quick reminder that last Saturday's AFL pre-season match between Carlton and Fremantle in Pretoria will be telecast in Australia on Foxtel. Fox Sports 3 will show the match on Wednesday 6th February at 10 PM AEST (immediately after the soccer) and Thursday 7th February at 10 AM AEST.
Not surprisingly the talented Australian indigenous under 16s team has given the South African development side a football lesson in the curtain raiser to the Carlton-Fremantle AFL match in Pretoria. The Aboriginal side contains some of the best young players in Australia and raced away with the match, finishing up 100 point winners. It was pleasing to read that the home side had the support of an enthusiastic crowd - giving the locals someone to barrack for is an aspect of getting people involved in sport that should never be overlooked.
The result demonstrates that patience will be needed with the South African program. For all the good news stories we're seeing, and thousands of children involved in Auskick's equivalent, FootyWild, it will take a few years for the cream of those young players to become skilled at Australian Football and make their way into AFLSA's national sides.
North West province is the only region with sustained development over several years and the bulk of the Buffaloes sides have come from there. With AFLSA keen to spread the game further, and some of the best prospects from the recent talent camp being included in their youth squad, it's actually conceivable that this year's side may have more "athletes with potential" but less experienced footballers. So the results of this year's 3 match series should be regarded as a baseline from which to judge future matches. Having said that, in the next two games South Africa will feature even more raw young recruits from other provinces.
AFL Indigenous Youth Team: 5.3 10.4 14.6 19.9 (123)
South African Buffaloes development squad: 0.3 1.7 2.10 2.11 (23)
After trailing early, Fremantle rallied to defeat Carlton in the ARTH AFL Challenge at SuperSport Park in Pretoria. Sadly the game was marred by an injury to Kepler Bradley resulting in an ambulance coming onto the field. It ultimately proved to be a simple concussion, but given the match was an exhibition to promote the sport in front of thousands of children and their parents, it was a terribly unfortunate incident. We can only hope it didn't dissuade too many spectators from wanting their kids to play the game. Bradley returned to the ground later in the match, so hopefully this was noted by the crowd.
Overall the night seems to have been successful, with an official crowd of 5222, both clubs getting a solid workout, and the Australian indigenous team not unexpectedly too strong for the locals in the curtain raiser. The match also saw Carlton's new Irish recruit, Michael Shields, play his first AFL game.
Besides going live into South Africa on cable channel SuperSport, Saturday's AFL pre-season match between Carlton and Fremantle in Pretoria will be telecast in Australia on Foxtel later in the week. Fox Sports 3 will show the match on Wednesday 6th February at 10 PM AEST and Thursday 7th February at 10 AM AEST, but confirm closer to the date. It's being billed as an AFL Exhibition match.
With the NAB Cup widely regarded as needing changes to excite public interest in Australia (crowds are generally much smaller than the main season), let's hope next year we see an official NAB Cup game in South Africa televised live into Australia. With West Coast and Fremantle both involved in that country, better placed geographically in terms of flight times, and normally drawn to play each other in their NAB Cup openers, it seems the obvious choice to start the 2009 pre-season competition.
The RealFooty website is reporting that the South African government will fund AFL South Africa to the tune of AUD$250,000 as part of an anti-smoking campaign. Hopefully they've got their numbers right and it really is Australian dollars, not Rand (worth about one fifth of an Aussie dollar). If true, it marks another impressive step forward for the game's acceptance there, with the national government obviously impressed with the AFL's commitment and their ability, with AFLSA, to deliver healthy messages to local children. The article values the AFL's annual funding to footy in the African country at AUD$400,000 per annum, with an additional approximately AUD$600,000 coming in sponsorship and other sources, making for a million dollar annual program.
The Australian Indigenous youth squad to tour South Africa has been announced. The tour follows on from the February 2006 tour and a reciprocal visit last season. The team features some well-known surnames and will play the South African youth side as a curtain-raiser to carlton versus Fremantle in Pretoria. In an article on the AFL website, the target of 25000 South African players by 2009 is re-stated.
The Carlton versus Fremantle exhibition match in Pretoria on February 2nd will be no quiet run at an empty park. The game forms the centre-piece for a major campaign to raise awareness of Australian Football in the area and will see thousands of young players bussed in to see the game, live coverage on South African cable TV, and a curtain raiser in which all four of South Africa's footy provinces will be represented for the first time. worldfootynews.com speaks to AFL South Africa's Joel Kelly.