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.
The Adelaide Crows have embarked on a program to encourage recent migrants to South Australia to become invovled in the great Australian game. Supporting other local football teams in the initiative, the AFL club recently invited thirty African children to a training session and tour of the facilities at AAMI Stadium (formerly Football Park).
Aussie Rules may not have conquered the troubled African nation of Zimbabwe just yet, but it has won a convert in recent arrival to Australia Tinashe Nyatsanga. He quickly fell in love with the sport and is now one of the game's most sought after commodities - an umpire.
In recent years the AFL has begun to focus its international attention on South Africa, moving from a fairly passive international footy role, supporting a few countries, to actively pursuing growth. A complete review of the AFL's approach to international development is underway, following a restructure of the influential Game Development section headed by David Matthews. We previously reported that the West Australian Football Commission was keen to take on a lead international role in their region (see Western Australia to target development for Indian Ocean region?)
and this has taken a step forward with a submission to the WAFC and discussions between the Fremantle Dockers and the AFL in the last few days. Also read on for Andrew Demetriou's thoughts on an AFL match for premiership points being staged internationally.
The recent Indigenous tour to South Africa was reportedly a great success and we mentioned that a key was for the AFL to continue that commitment. It was very pleasing that tour leader Michael Long recently announced that the Africans will reciprocate the tour with matches against an Aboriginal squad in Australia in 2007. The following report is from the AFL website and can also be found at the Northern Territory AFL's site under AFL Trifecta for Northern Territory.
Tanzanian marathon runner Samson Ramadhani took gold at this year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, but will be bringing a footy back home along with his medal. Ramadhani was sighted practicing his kicking with other members of the Tanzanian team at the games village after the team were donated two balls by Aussie Rules travel group the Convicts.
The Australian indigenous youth footy tour of South Africa has come to an end with the Aboriginal lads winning all three matches comfortably. But the tour was a great experience for the South Africans and if the tour becomes a regular event as hoped then the benefits will be all the greater. We review each of the three games, played in Potchefstroom, Mafikeng and Stellenbosch, with thanks to AFL South Africa Development Officer Jack Arnold for the information. Apologies for lack of information about the Australian details - understandably the busy AFL South Africa staff were focussed on their team. Photos to follow later.