The Australian Football League appear to be following through on their commitment to footy in South Africa, with perhaps the biggest single increase in international Australian Football development in the game's history. This should result in a rapid expansion in staff and player numbers.
In a story several weeks ago in Western Australia's Sunday Times it was reported that the AFL will look at staging a match, possibly a NAB Cup game, in South Africa in the next two seasons. This will be another significant step in their commitment to the game in that country. The story also mentions previously reported plans to spread the game into Western Cape, and suggests Natal for the first time (actually called Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa).
At last weekend's Adelaide versus Fremantle match, participants aged from 5 to 13 from the 'Sporting Chance' program formed a guard of honour for the Crow's players. All the children have immigrated to Australia over the past year from countries like Sierra Leone and The Sudan.
At the 2005 International Cup the South African vice-captain, Benji Motuba, was an inspiration as he returned to the field from a recently broken collarbone. The injury was sustained whilst playing in the South Australian Riverland on a scholarship. After the Cup he returned to Africa where he met his baby son for the first time.
A documentary entitled "Flying Boomerangs" will air on the ABC's Indigenous Affairs program "Message Stick", covering the tour by young Aboriginal Australians to South Africa to play Aussie Rules against local teams. A preview of the program is available at the National Indigenous Times website. "Flying Boomerangs" will air on ABC TV on Friday August 4th (6pm) and Sunday August 6th (1.30pm).
The Convicts amateur footy side are set to repeat their successful 2005 tour of South Africa with another venture there in February 2007. The tour is a great chance to support international Australian Football whilst having a great holiday and visiting parts of South Africa that many tourists miss out on. They're looking for just a couple more players to field a well balanced side.
In recent years, the AFL has introduced a number of "themed" rounds each season. Rivalry, Grassroots and Heritage rounds each focussed on one particular aspect of football and gave it due recognition. Following their success, the AFL has introduced other complimentary rounds that have further played upon notions of "giving back" or "getting involved". One of the newly introduced themes this season was "Welcome to the AFL".
AFL South Africa's program to send visiting Australian tourists into the townships to teach Australian Football was a great chance to personally experience the country in a way rarely available but with at times surprising similarities to home.
Reigning AFL premier the Sydney Swans have sent two of their Talent Recruiting Managers to South Africa. Perhaps this is the first of many scouting parties that will head there to see what level the players are at.
As reported recently, the Western Australian Football Commission and AFL club Fremantle are interested in working with the AFL on the quickly growing South African footy program. It seems current league leaders West Coast aren't to be outdone by their local rivals, and are also discussing a training program there, no doubt looking at the excellent facilities at Potchefstroom.