A big weekend of footy in Arizona on February 25th and 26th with six teams, Chandler Outlaws, ASU Sun Devils, LA/Orange County combine, Inland Empire, Nashville and San Diego taking part in the 9 a side tournament. Seven games were played on day one at the Tempe Sports Complex, with the top four teams advancing to the semi finals and final being played on Sunday. The Chandler Outlaws team taking out the 2006 tournament.
Players and officials in Australian Football leagues around the world are sometimes surprised to find that many Aussies don't realise their top national football code is played overseas. This has surely been changing in recent years with a reasonable amount of coverage given to the 2005 International Cup, the South African experiment, and quite a few media stories on the two Japanese players doing a pre-season with AFL club Essendon. Such an aim was indeed been part of worldfootynews.com's raison d'être. On a smaller scale than some of the national media reports was a recent article in the Loxton News, in South Australia's Riverland. One of their local players had a run in the Golden Gate AFL in San Fransisco and was enthusiastic about the experience.
The Golden Gate AFL was one of the groundbreaking leagues in the US, amongst a handful to seriously commit to development of a local city league ahead of interstate travel. This lead is now being followed in other regions of the United States. Now the league has seen another leading spin-off with the development of possibly the first high school club in the US.
Canadian club, the Guelph Gargoyles will this August host the first Wellington Boot Invitational tournament, featuring three days of football with live bands and other entertainment between games. Organisers are hopeful of clubs from Japan, Ireland, Britain and the United States in addition to the Canadians in attendance.
Erin Phillips is an up-and-coming point guard in Australia's premier women's basketball league, the WNBL. A top player with Adelaide's national league side the Adelaide Fellas (a curious title based on their major sponsor - the club was formerly known as the Adelaide Lightning), Phillips is also known in South Australia for her football prowess and heritage. Her father is Greg Phillips, a legend at Port Adelaide in the SANFL in the era before the ever strengthening VFL expanded to become the AFL. Greg was a strong player for Port, and also played several seasons with Collingwood in the VFL. In all he played over 400 games of senior footy. His daughter was also a good footballer, competing with boys through her junior years, and playing in celebrity matches. Now she is set to join the world's best women's basketball league, the WNBA. In recent years we've seen former AFL players like Darren Bennett and Ben Graham helping promote Aussie Rules in the US, so maybe Erin will be another candidate, particularly in accelerating the game in the fledgling female market. Joel Shepherd sent us this report.
On a very chilly Australia Day, the New York Magpies were hosted by the Chelsea Pier Golf driving range (in Manhattan) in an event that signified the small but steadily growing steps of influence that Aussie Rules has on the United States - the Magpies bringing the game of Aussie Rules to their city and Ben Graham bringing his Aussie Rules big kicking leg to the NFL’s New York Jets. In addition to Graham's participation in the longest kick competition, he also showed willingness to take some training sessions for the Pies and attend games where possible, in a potential publicity coup for the Pies.
Australian Football has clearly put down roots in the United States over the past few years. It was only in 1996 that the first match was played by US teams, with the first Nationals the following year, in Cincinatti. In a few countries growth has been slow but fairly steady and the US is no exception, except its shear size of population means any small growth adds up to big numbers quickly. Where America appears to have fallen off the pace a little is in junior development, with leading countries like Papua New Guinea and New Zealand working hard on spreading the game amongst children. The US has been held back by a variety of reasons, such as no single city reaching "critical mass" in adult players. But also being relatively new to the sport, there has yet to be many former players now parents looking to get their kids into the game, as has been seen for example in Denmark.
However the USAFL's Denis Ryan has been working hard with the US Footy Kids program (similar to Auskick) and has started to see tangible results in the past year, so what better time for WFN to catch up with him and see how the future may unfold. Having recently sold nearly 1000 footies in Texas, things must be looking good.
2006 will see footy league play return to the OC, LA and Inland Empire with a new four-team Southern California AFL under formation. California boasted the first organised regional footy league in the USA, but has since gone through hard times - the right league structure proving elusive despite the area being home to two of the USA's traditional power clubs in Orange County and San Diego and a large local Australian population. WFN talks with Chris Olson about the new league.
With the size of the workload involved becoming more obvious in recent times, no club had put up their hand to host the tournament by the time of the 2005 National Championships held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Usually an announcement would have been made at that time, but not in 2005. There is also the matter of the ‘Nationals Curse’ which seems to haunt host clubs in the years following the tournament being in their city, perhaps due to the enormous workload on volunteer administrators. The curse is generally not taken seriously, yet a serious case could be mounted that there is something to it.
Mike ‘Scuba’ Russell wasn't expecting to suit up for his country when he attended the AFL exhibition match in LA but wasn't about to say no to such an honour. Here he gives us a forthright, first hand account of his day playing for the US Revolution team, made up of all American players. They took on the Aussie All Comers side at the UCLA last week as the curtain raiser to the Swans v Kangaroos match.