The Ontario Australian Football League in Canada's east has been that country's stronghold of Aussie Rules for the past 17 years. Based on the playing numbers and teams, it appears as though that region has stabilised for now. What is encouraging is the continued work to expand the number of clubs in the fledgling footy provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.
In the few short years that Aussie Rules has been played in the United States, one thing has been consistent - change. Each season sees new formulas tried to speed the spread of the game, or at least consolidate the impressive gains so far. 2005 has seen the emergence of the Eastern AFL (possibly described as a merger of the NEAFL and SEAFL, or an expansion of the NEAFL). The East coast will be hoping this new league can go on to rival the successful Mid-American AFL (MAAFL). But for many of the western US sides, a two part regional tournament will be their focus in 2005, with trips to Denver and Canada on the cards.
James Brunmeier, of University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and the Milwaukee Bombers, started playing Aussie Rules in 2003. Since then he has rapidly developed as a player, making the US Revolution national squad and winning the 2005 Macquarie University Australian Football Scholarship to attend Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
The recent airing in Australia (March 2005) of the FOXFooty documentary filmed at the 2004 US Nationals was long-awaited. Tiffany Cherry's 30 minute review of the game in the US included interviews with several key people in US Footy and the AFL, including Kevin Sheedy and AFL General Manager of Game Development, David Matthews. For the benefit of those unable to see the documentary, a review is given here.
Early reports are that the United States East-West All-Star event went well, with the East winning the All-American match and the West winning the All-Stars. Critically, tournament hosts Dallas were in talks with the All-Sport Television Network's filming crew immediately before the weekend, indicating the broadcast of matches is on track.
The USAFL's three year deal with ASTN is the source of huge excitement and potential for the game, but several aspects have concerned respected people in the game. So all concerned watch with baited breath, hoping everything continues well and local US footy begins appearing on screens across the US.
Footy in the USA is taking a much more structured look these days with the consolidation of teams into regional leagues. None more so than the Mid American Australian Football League (MAAFL) with its seven teams fighting it out for the coveted Premiership Trophy. The emergence of the Eastern Australian Football League (EAFL) in 2005 is testament to the success of the MAAFL over the previous years and the general acceptance that there is a solid place for stand alone inter city games of Aussie Rules thoughout the US (i.e. a home and away season, not just tournaments and metro). Here is review of what the clubs have been up to in the off-season and what lies ahead.
Back in 1980 Kathryn Hogg was watching ESPN like many others sports mad Americans and was being fed a diet of wrestling and Aussie Rules Footy (VFL) by the newcomer to US cable TV. Jump forward to 2003 and she again discovered football, now branded AFL on digital cable after not seeing it for some years. Given the positive moves made in sports by women in the past two decades she decided to see if women were playing Aussie Rules. Hogg has now taken on an official role with the USAFL and we talked with her about future plans.
The inaugural "Wild West Shootout" 9-a-side tournament was held in Las Vegas on 16th April. As often happens with such events, a few last minute changes were necessary and the final set-up was 7 teams. The Mojave Greens, the Tucson Javelinas, and the OC Crush were combined into one side for the day. That still provided a healthy competition for a tournament in its first hit out, in a city where the game isn't played at all.
The US television deal for the broadcast of local USAFL matches has created much excitement but also scepticism. The USAFL have issued a statement that they accept there may be teething problems with the ASTN deal in its first year, but they remain confident that it will be a great step forward for the game in America. The release follows.
On April 8th and 9th, the AFL's Collingwood Magpies
held open tryouts in association with the Denver Bulldogs, the reigning
3-in-a-row USAFL champions. James Waddell, officially representing
Collingwood, put a group of hopefuls through a series of athletic tests,
with the results forwarded to the club for examination. Waddell would
like this to be just the first of many trials, with the aim of finding
young American recruits to take to Australia on scholarships, with a
view to AFL careers.