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21st Century Timeline - the Growth of Australian Rules Football around the World

Initially compiled by Brett Northey from various sources, maintained by WFN editors

After tentatively establishing itself as Australia's premier football code in the 20th century, and laying down tenuous roots in around a dozen countries, Australian football has rapidly accelerated its international spread in the 21st century. The following is a selective Timeline of the key dates in the development of Australian football.

Elite AFL-Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) under 17s tour Europe for the first time, including a heavy defeat of the European Legion (roughly Under 21). Elite AFL-Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) under 17s tour Europe for the second time, including heavy defeats of the European Legion (roughly Under 23) and European Titans (open age).
2000 Australian Rules Football League Ireland (ARFLI) formed.
2001 Brisbane begins golden era - 3 premierships in a row, spurring incredible growth in junior teams in Queensland.
2002 First International Cup involving eleven countries held in Melbourne - inaugural winners Ireland, defeating PNG (Australia not represented to allow competitive matches as the game develops internationally). Other nations, in finishing order, were New Zealand, Denmark, USA, Great Britain, Nauru, Canada, Japan and South Africa. Hosted by the AFL and IAFC, who dissolve in favour of the AFL's International Development Committee. Several splinter IAFCs form, but none appear to last beyond 2005.
  First club formed in Madrid, Spain.
2003 First clinics held in India - Indian Amateur Australian Football Association formed. Appear to be inactive thereafter.
  Tonga Australian Football Association formed.
  Java Australian Football League formed in Indonesia (featuring locals, not expatriates).
  Footy South Africa officially re-organised with a formal structure of ten teams and about 200 players in three provinces. Stated goal is 10,000 players by 2008.
  First women's Australian football teams formed internationally - in USA and Japan (leagues already exist in Australia, with the Victorian one far larger than any other).
  Inaugural Central European Australian Football Championships held in Spain.
  AFL Queensland bring PNG juniors into their country football championships. Junior numbers exploding in PNG - perhaps 10,000 strong.
  AFL Canberra club Queanbeyan offer scholarships to several talented young NZ footballers.
2004 First Scottish premiership season.
  Solomon Islands Australian Football Association (SIAFA) formed. Ultimately loses momentum, but around the same time Australian military and police begin a program whilst in the country as part of the RAMSI peace keeping and assistance program.
  Fiji Australian Football Association (FAFA) formed (folds in 2005).
  Women's Australian Football Association formed in USA.
  Philippine Australian Football League formed in Manila.
  David Matthews appointed as AFL General Manager of Game Development, begins to build AFL commitment to international football.
  Several PNG footballers play for the Cobras in the Cairns AFL.
  AFL announce the 2nd International Cup to be held in Melbourne in August 2005.
  USAFL signs first known TV deal for a non-Australian league (although some Canadian matches were shown in the early 1990s).
  St Kilda tour South Africa (training and doing clinics), gathering unprecedented coverage in Australia of footy's potential in South Africa. Player numbers already around 1000 players.
2005 Federazione Italiana di Football Australiano formed, but appear to become dormant.
  AFL South Africa successfully apply for funding for 4 local staff. "Convicts" side (mixture of amateur players from around Australia) tours South Africa, conducting clinics and defeating the national side.
  More PNG players begin playing in leagues around Queensland. Several Samoans and Americans play in Melbourne, and some New Zealanders in other eastern states of Australia.
  The AFL's Multicultural Program launched to better involve Melbourne's migrant communities in Australian Football (to hopefully be expanded to other states later).
  New Zealand win the 2nd International Cup (in Melbourne and Wangaratta), defeating PNG. Ten nations attended, with the others finishing in the order USA, Ireland, Samoa, Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, Japan and Spain. Nauru and Denmark pulled out primarily with financial issues.
  Western Australian Football Commission announces desire to assist with international development of Indian Ocean countries and possibly to host 2008 IC.
  Melbourne Football Club propose building on the city of Melbourne's sister city ties with Tianjin and develop footy in China.
  First foundations of what becomes the Finland AFL.
  Irishman Tadhg Kennelly wins AFL Premiership with Sydney. Brisbane Lions international rookie list 2 Gaelic footballers and say they will pursue a relationship with Ireland. Carlton promote Setanta O'hAilpin to senior list and his brother Aisake continues on the international rookie list.
  Three clubs being developed in France (Strasbourg, Paris and Senlis), with all playing matches this year.
  15 international players invited to AFL and Australian Institute of Sport December training camp. 7 are able to attend (from Japan, UK, NZ and PNG).
  Java league in Pancawati (Indonesia) develops beyond juniors, with hopes to include more villages and Universities in future.
  Aussie Rules UK (ARUK) begins in England, focussed on junior development
2006 Kangaroos (North Melbourne) play Sydney at UCLA, USA and both clubs and the AFL assist the USAFL with coaching and training camps for US players.
  Zagreb Giants the first club in Croatia.
  Melbourne Football Club target development in Tianjin (near Beijing, China) through an Australian development/ambassador position (through AusAID, the AFL and Melbourne City Council) and plan a visit by their club later in the year. First two teams of Chinese formed and play demonstration with expat Aussie side.
  Japan's Michito Sakaki plays for Essendon in an AFL sanctioned trial match against Sydney. Samurai's team-mate Tsuyoshi Kase also trains with Essendon, as several US footballers had done in the past. Sakaki then signs with Ovens and Murray Football League club the Wodonga Raiders.
  AFL send indigenous youth squad to South Africa to play 3 games against the South African national side (1 International Rules, 2 Australian Football).
  PNG's Stanis Susuve becomes first internationally developed player to represent an Australian state - Queensland under 16s.
  Agreement between AFL South Africa and North-West Province Cricket Association to share facilities. Later in the year the AFL announced plans to dramatically expand the paid staff at AFLSA from 4 to 20, with intentions of expanding the game into several provinces.
  AFL announce major enhancement of approach to international footy, with a new high-powered International Development Committee and eight core areas to work with international leagues to develop the game.
  Barassi Youth Tournament in Canberra features South Africa and New Zealand under 16 sides versus a selection of Australian youth squads.
  England youth team defeat Denmark juniors in Copenhagen in first European youth international.
  Brian Dixon visits India, helping sew the seeds of AFL India.
  Hybrid International Rules series suspended by Ireland over GAA concerns regarding on-field violence and rule interpretations during the 2005 and 2006 series.
2007 South African youth side tours Australia, including playing against Aboriginal youth side in curtain-raiser to Aboriginal All-Stars vs Essendon in Darwin in February (other matches are in Jabiru, NT and Perth, WA).  AFL announces Fremantle, West Coast and Collingwood will invest in South Africa - North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces, respectively (Carlton later agree to work with the province of Gauteng). National side defeats touring Convicts team, the first side to do so. FootyWild program launched in the four targeted provinces. Costa Logistics sign on as a major sponsor of AFL South Africa.

  Elite AFL-Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) under 17s tour South Africa, conducting clinics, playing an internal trial including some South African players, and defeating a mixed (under 19s and open age) South Africa team comfortably, in the debut footy matches for Sedgars Park.
  PNG under 14s and under 16s compete as teams in their own right in the AFL Queensland state under 14 and under 16 championships, both winning one game.
  First senior leagues (9-a-side) of the part new, part breakaway ARUK season in the UK (previously established for junior development), including inaugural Wales AFL season. Partly results in BARFL Regional League cancelled. By the end of the year the turbulent on-again off-again BARFL and ARUK relationship appears to be on again, with talk of permanent re-structure of footy in the UK.
  Irishman Martin Clarke an almost instant success for Collingwood in the AFL. Along with the success of Colm Begley in Brisbane and the O'hAilpin's at Carlton (and ongoing success of Tadhg Kennelly in Sydney), spurs a major boost in AFL club interest in Ireland's Gaelic games players. At the end of the year, three more Irishmen are rookie listed by AFL clubs.
  Large numbers (1000s) of children taught footy in Suzhou, China, as a base is developed there and Tianjin. First ever all-Chinese senior match as Beijing SiShen Bombers defeat Tianjin Normal University Demons in Beijing.
  First women's international as US Freedom defeat Canadian Eagles in Vancouver, Canada in successive matches. Canada defeat US in first boys under 17s matches, and Canada score first win over US in men's.
  Significant increase in delivery of television coverage of AFL into Europe and North America through Irish network Setanta Sport.
  EU Cup begins to grow in significance as more teams with less expats attend the 9-a-side tournament. Also a significant increase in the number of full internationals between Ireland, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
  Two PNG players attend AIS-AFL academy.
  West Coast first AFL club to stage a community camp in South Africa.
2008 AFL-declared 150th year of Australian Football.
  Collingwood, Carlton and Fremantle stage Community Camps in South Africa. Carlton play Fremantle (exhibition match) at SuperSport Park in Pretoria. Collingwood play Adelaide (NAB Cup) in Abu Dhabi, UAE (hosted from Dubai).
  BARFL re-badge as AFL Britain, with intention of a stronger overall support process but less day-to-day control of the London leagues.
  Israeli-Palestine Peres Peace team in training for International Cup. Informal matches also being held by other groups in Israel.
  First two AFL India representatives undergo coaching clinics with AFL in Melbourne.
  AFL club Presidents back AFL Commission plans to create new AFL clubs (17th and 18th licenses) on the Gold Coast and in West Sydney. Some AFL officials link the need for an expanded player base with new recruiting regions internationally.
  AFL change International Scholarship rules to allow each club up to 8 players per year (24 total) and only $1000 in kind value if the player stays in their own country's system, to encourage clubs to more favourably consider international recruits.
  PNG's John James becomes first internationally developed player to represent an Australian state at under 18s level (for Queensland).
  Elite AFL-Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) under 17s tour South Africa for the second time.
  AFL appoints full-time Oceania Development Manager (Andrew Cadzow)
  Work begins in Tianjin on first purpose-built Chinese Australian football oval.
  Irishman Jim Stynes becomes chairman of the Melbourne Football Club. Player agent Ricky Nixon confirms plans to stage Irish "draft camp" in Ireland to identify more AFL recruits from Gaelic football.
  PNG win the 3rd International Cup (in Melbourne and Warrnambool), defeating New Zealand. 16 teams attended, with the others finishing in the order South Africa, Ireland, Nauru, Canada, USA, Japan, Great Britain, Samoa, Denmark, Sweden, Peace Team, Finland, China, India. Youth teams from Canada and England tour Victoria around the time of the Cup.
  Although still mainly expat-Australian, the Asian Championships continue to grow, with 12 teams attending the 2008 tournament in Singapore.
  First use of an AFL club International Scholarship List as Western Bulldogs sign on young Fijians Inoke Ratu and Solomoni Loki, to mostly remain in Fiji but follow a specific football training program and be tied to the Bulldogs.
  First season of AFL Middle East commences, featuring the Abu Dhabi Falcons, Doha Kangaroos, Dubai Dragons, Dubai Dingoes, Dubai Heat and the Muscat Magpies.
2009 Global recession contributes to cancellation of proposed NAB Cup match in Cape Town. Some countries tighten their belts.
  Northern Territory Thunder competing in Queensland's top league.
  First Indigenous Boomerangs tour of PNG.
  Massive bushfires in regional Victoria result in fundraising efforts by many international Australian football clubs, eager to help reduce the suffering, indicates the growing world Australian football community.
  AFL International Scholarship List came to the fore with several of PNG's young stars given opportunities, including Amua Pirika and Stanis Susuve at the Gold Coast, David Meli at Essendon and Peter Labi at Carlton.
  Inaugural AFL Middle East season.
  Andorra debut in Catalan league.
  AFL Italia formed, fielding a national team, Italia Azzurri, and launching a league in 2010.
  Canadian Rugby convert Mike Pyke made his debut for the Sydney Swans, and Rugby League star Karmichael Hunt (of New Zealand heritage) stunned the NRL by defecting to future AFL club the Gold Coast.
  Oceanian talent development and exposure accelerates, with a match against a North Queensland selection, winning in front of political leaders from around the region who were attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns. The staging of the inaugural AFL Oceania Youth Championships, in Fiji, with Tonga winning.
  Hawthorn join AFL New Zealand in launching HANZ UP, a program aimed at Kiwi youth. The breakthrough agreement sees the national side re-branded as the Hawks, significant funding for youth programs including the Hawks Cup for schools, and Hawthorn's commitment to international scholarship listing of New Zealanders, starting with Kurt Heatherley.
  Sudanese immigrant, Majak Daw, receives huge media attention when rookie listed by North Melbourne. American basketballer Shae McNamara rookie listed by Collingwood and expresses interest in promoting game in his homeland.
  US Freedom women's team tours Australia.
2010 European Australian Football Association (EAFA) founded.
  The Dutch Australian Football Association stages its first full domestic competition in The Netherlands.
  Bayanda Sobetwa international scholarship listed by the future Western Sydney AFL club.
  AFL names Tony Woods as their first full time International Development Manager (complementing existing staff who overlap with other departments).
  AFL scouts hold talent trials in Argentina, with two players selected to play for the World XVIII youth side.
  Australian Under 16 championships for the first time feature South Pacific and World XVIII Under 18 sides, both proving to be relatively competitive.
  Inaugural European Championships, played in Denmark and Sweden, and won by Ireland. EU Cup re-incarnated as Euro Cup, played in Milan, Italy. Both under the banner of EAFA.
  Brisbane Lions vs Melbourne - exhibition game in Shanghai. Curtain raiser is first ever China (open) versus Japan (under 21s) match, won easily by Japan.
2011 Vanuatu's first senior club formed (some junior development previously), in village of Erakor.
  Gold Coast Suns make their AFL debut.
  First Russian clubs formed, in Krasnoyarsk and Moscow. First Russian side enters European Cup.
  The 4th International Cup, now called the AFL International Cup, staged in Sydney and Melbourne. 18 men's teams divided into 2 divisions based on a lightning tournament on the first day. Ireland become first multiple winners, defeating PNG at the MCG in the grand final. Fiji take out Division 2 over France. For the first time a Women's Division is staged, with 5 teams, Ireland defeating Canada in the grand final at Royal Park. International Cup debuts by (men's) Tonga (not in main draw in 2008), Fiji, France, Timor Leste and (women's) Ireland, Canada, USA and PNG (and an Australian indigenous and multi-cultural development side).
  AFL testing at a "Combine" at IC11 reveals some of the international players are near the top of AFL draft camp results both athletically and in skill.
2012 Greater Western Sydney Giants make their AFL debut.
  AFL opens first academy in China (in Guangzhou).

Teams have also been formed in Austria, Belgium, Chile, Pakistan, Lebanon, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Singapore and elsewhere - we hope that these will grow into established leagues in years to come (at which point more details will be added here).

See also History of World Footy - 19th Century and History of World Footy - 20th Century

Last Updated: Sunday, June 17 2012 @ 04:12 pm ACST|Hits: 29,852 View Printable Version