Contributed by: Brendan Cunningham Friday, April 07 2006 @ 01:22 am ACST
The Japan AFL[*1] season promises to take the sport in Japan to new levels in 2006 following the spectacular results achieved by Michito Sakaki and Tsuyoshi Kase, who trained with Essendon throughout the pre-season. It is hoped that the publicity generated in the Australian and Japanese press will see more Japanese players take up the sport through upcoming recruiting days across Japanese universities.
In order to take advantage of this, 2006 will see the introduction of several new teams as The Samurai (National Team) have agreed to compete as individual University teams. As a result the Tokyo Goannas and the Eastern Hawks (university graduates), will play against the Senshu University “Power”, The Leopards (a mixture of several universities including Waseda, Keio , Rikkyo and Hosei) and the Komazawa University “Magpies.” The season starts in May and after each team has played each other once, a Grand Final will be held between the top 2 teams.
In Osaka there is also plenty happening, with two leagues battling it out in 2006 (see previous story Four teams, but in two leagues - footy in Kansai, Japan).
Before the official JAFL season starts, the Tokyo Goannas will be hosting the Shanghai Tigers in a Tri-series on April 8, which will also include the Eastern Hawks. These teams will be competing for the inaugural NAB Japan-China Cup and play one game (2 x 20 minute halves) against each other team with the winner being the team with most points/better percentage.
The highlight of the Japan season is the Annual Narita Cup, which will be held on the Queens Birthday long weekend, June 10 & 11 2006. This is a 2-day footballing spectacular with teams from Australia, Tokyo and Osaka (no other foreign teams confirmed at this stage) competing in tough, tight and spirited clashes. The Samurais will be looking for a hat trick of victories, while all other teams will be doing their best to prevent this!
It is also expected that a team from Japan will compete in the Asian Championships in Jakarta with the aim to better their 3rd placing in last year’s tournament.