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Independent News and Views from the International Aussie Rules Community

older | 1 | 2 | (Page 3) | 4 | 5 | .... | 133 | newer

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    Of course, the above title should finish “…the more they stay the same.” Yet, oddly, in the case of Australian Rules footy in Ireland, that whole saying could be reversed. The more the game seems to be staying much as it was last year, it is in fact changing by degrees…and for the better.

    Cian Quigley, president of ARFLI (Australian Rules Football League Ireland), points out that the league has the same teams as last year. Cian explains that “We have the same number of teams as always but the Midwest Magpies have rebranded to the Galway Magpies. Playing numbers in the Irish league are slowly increasing and the competition between teams is very close. The reigning premiers the Belfast Redbacks lost their opening game to a team [North Leinster Giants] that didn't make finals last year!”

    But bubbling beneath the surface, change is occurring. This is best seen through the arrival of the UCC Bombers in Cork. Whilst they are some way away from playing in the national league on equal terms, the fact they now exist, and are actively playing games, means an eighth Irish team is potentially near.

    The re-branding of the Galway Magpies might be seen as a run of the mill name change. But the reality is that as the game continues to change and evolve, clubs often see a need to continue their own evolution. It is a healthy sign of recognising the need for a new or refreshed image, new markets or simply new statements of belonging or identity.

    The AFL in Australia has spent millions in creating player drafts and salary caps and changing whatever it could to push for equalisation across the clubs. In Ireland, that equalisation appears as if it might be achieved simply through the increased player numbers. North Leinster is a good example of a club that has closed the gap on last year’s premiership team. Only the club could tell you what is different from last year, but only 2 or 3 new players can change the balance of a team.

    This coming weekend will see the second game played between the Irish Warriors and the Great Britain Bulldogs. Going down to the Bulldogs in the first game at Guildford 59 to 7 would have hurt, especially since it was only the second time Great Britain had won. But this weekend sees the Bulldogs coming to Dublin, and a chance for redemption for the Warriors. As Cian says, “on the international front Ireland play England this weekend in Dublin. These are always closely fought games and the Warriors will be looking to avenge the loss they suffered last time out.”

    But across the board, Irish competitions are getting stronger and showing signs of a higher standard spreading across the national competition. The fact that Belfast won their first premiership in 2012 shows that the Lions, Demons and Swans do not have a monopoly on the competition.

    Also, the Province of Origin match in 2012 saw Munster defeat Connacht in the final. This year saw a new champion as Ulster defeated Munster. This already shows a spread of talent across the provinces in the two years the competition has been run. So far the Irish Warriors have won every Australian Embassy Plate since the move to a stand alone game against the embassy selection team in 2010. Maybe, too, this dominance might swing and show another example of the talent spreading wider.

    Last year the Euro Cup was an Irish double with both the Warriors and the Banshees taking top honours. Whether or not anyone cares to admit it, this has raised the bar higher, both for Irish teams to defend their titles, and for other nations to topple them. This alone means that 2013 should be very interesting on the international front. Cian also points out that “this year will also see Ireland hold the European Championships. We're hoping to follow the great standard set by the Swedes and Danes last time out.”

    Whether or not the current crop of AFL players in Australia came through local teams or not doesn’t change the fact that Irish footy has a number of new foot soldiers doing their country proud. Pearce Hanley, Marty Clarke, Setanta O’hAilpin, Zach Tuohy, Niall McKeever, Tommy Walsh, Caolan Mooney and others are following in the footsteps of Jim Stynes, Sean Wight and Tadgh Kennelly as Irish ambassadors for the game. It will be interesting to see whether the two Irish lads, Emmett Bradley and Sean Hurley, who attended last year’s AFL Draft Combine as international invitees will be the next two names to watch for.

    So, whilst it might appear that the Aussie Rules footy scene is travelling along “normally”, it is clear that the game is evolving and growing in Ireland across a whole range of areas.

    And that is a very good thing.


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    Irish convert to Australian Football Setanta O’hAilpin has been named in the Greater Western Sydney GIANTS 25 man squad to play Melbourne at the MCG this Sunday. O'hAilpin, who has not played for nearly 12 months since undergoing a knee reconstruction, is one of eight inclusions for the GIANTS. Some thought the injury might be the end of his AFL career. But the Giants have stuck by him, and he's back.

    O’hAilpin has been named at full forward in place of Jon Patton, who’ll miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

    GIANTS Head Coach Kevin Sheedy says O’hAilpin deserves his spot back in the team. “He (O’hAilpin) kicked five goals last week and has been in very good form in the NEAFL,” Sheedy said. “It’s a shame we lose (Jon) Patton but I’ve got faith that Setanta can do the job for us up forward.”

    The GIANTS final 22 will be named tomorr ...

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    The 2013 AFL season moves on to Round 4 this week.   The international broadcast schedule can be seen below. All times are correct at the time of publishing and WFN takes no responsibility for changes to the schedule.

    There are some reports on forums that Sommet Sports that was scheduled to deliver Free to Air coverage of the AFL in NZ was due to launch today but have not.  We would appreciate any confirmation of this. 

    Television Syd vs Geel Haw vs Freo Rich vs Coll St K vs Ess WC vs Carlton Suns vs Pt Ad Mel vs GWS Adel vs WB NM vs Bris Highlights
    AUSTRALIA NETWORK                    
    Asia 19/4 @ 1730 HKT (LIVE)   20/4 @ 1200 HKT (LIVE)   20/4 @ 1730 HKT (LIVE)       21/4 @ 1430 HKT (LIVE) 23/4 @ 2230 HKT
    Pacific 19/4 @ 2130 FJT (LIVE)   20/4 @ 1600 FJT (LIVE)   20/4 @ 2130 FJT (LIVE)       21/4 @ 1930 FJT (Delay) 23/4 @ 2200 FJT
    India 19/4 @ 1700 IST (Delay)   20/4 @ 0930 IST (LIVE)   20/4 @ 1500 IST (LIVE)       21/4 @ 1200 IST (LIVE) 24/4 @ 1800 IST
    Africa         20/4 @ 0530 EST (LIVE)         26/4 @ 0900 EST
    Caribbean         20/4 @ 0530 EST (LIVE)         24/4 @ 1500 EST
    UK & Ireland 19/4 @ 1030 BST (LIVE)   20/4 @ 0500 BST (LIVE) 20/4 @ 0745 BST (LIVE)           23/4 @ 1930 BST
    EUROSPORT 2                    
    Europe       20/4 @ 0830 CET (LIVE)           23/4 @ 2330 CET
    UK & Ireland       23/4 @ 2300 BST (Delay) 20/4 @ 1030 BST (LIVE)         23/4 @ 2230 BST
    FOX SOCCER PLUS                    
    USA 19/4 @ 0530 USET (LIVE)     20/4 @ 0530 USET (LIVE)           23/4 @ 1930 PDT
    ORBIT SHOWTIME                    
    Middle East 19/4 @ 0530 USET (LIVE)   20/4 @ 0700 KSA (LIVE) 20/4 @ 0930 KSA (LIVE)           22/4 @ 1900 KSA
    OTLSM- BOATS AND CRUISES                    
    Worldwide (excl Australia) 19/4 @ 0950 GMT (LIVE)                  
    SKY SPORTS                    
    New Zealand 22/4 @ 0000 NZT (LIVE)                 24/4 @ 1200 NZT
    Canada     20/4 @ 0000 US ET   
    VIVA SPORTS                    
    Latin America 21/4 @ 1000 MST (Delay)                  
    ONLINE STREAMING LIVEAFL.TV                    
    Worldwide (excl Australia) 0950 GMT 0345 GMT 0410 GMT 0640 GMT 0940 GMT 0940 GMT 0310 GMT 0515 GMT 0640 GMT  

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  • 04/18/13--06:53: US Combine completed
  • The 2nd official AFL US Combine been completed in Los Angeles. Three athletes, David Grzesiak (pictured below)  from the University of Wisconsin, Matt Sauey from the University of North Florida, and Cliff Ederine from the University of Eastern Washington, broke the standing vertical jump record of 85cm with 86cm leaps to become the best ever performers in 18 years of testing.

    As we mentioned last year these athletes are much older than the athletes usually tested at AFL Combines. The overall performances of the group really impressed the six AFL club representatives in attendance.




    "With an average height of 201cm the 17 players with backgrounds in basketball, volleyball, baseball as well as track and field performed at an elite level in all areas of the combine," said AFL International and National Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan.

    "To see 208cm Olatunji Kosile run 2.97 seconds over 20 metres was one of many highlights for the day". “This concept had broken new ground for the AFL with the undoubted prospect of unearthing the next Nick Naitanui or Mike Pyke from the USA who can impact the AFL,” said Sheehan.

    AFL Club representatives including Sydney Swans Paul Roos and GWS's Stephen Silvagni were extremely impressed with the performances and potential of what they observed on day one of testing.

    At least three players for the US Combine will be invited to the AFL’s National Draft Combine to be held at Etihad Stadium in October 2013.

    The top results were;

    Speed (20m Sprint)
    Akeen Johnson
    Olatunji Kosile
    Jamell Harris
    Agility (AFL Agility Run)
    David Grzesiak
    Cliff Ederine
    Demario Hines
    Standing Vertical Jump
    David Grzesiak
    Matt Sauey
    Cliff Ederine
    Running Veritcal Jump
    Cliff Ederine
    Matt Sauey
    David Grzesiak
    3km Time Trial
    David Grzesiak    10min 34sec  University of Wisconsin
    Taylor Broekhuis (pictured top)  11min 28sec  Air Force Academy
    Nathan Healy      11min 24sec  Appalachian State University
    Olatunji Kosile   11min 48sec   UMES
    Akeem Johnson   12min 18sec  St. St. Francis College – Brooklyn
    Cliff Ederaine   12min 18sec   Eastern Washington

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    After 4 years at the North Melbourne FC, 22-year old Sudanese-Australian Majak Daw has finally been selected to make his debut for the Kangaroos against the Brisbane Lions this Sunday.

    Daw has created plenty of media attention over the past few years, for both the right and wrong reasons. His freakish athletic ability saw videos of him in action in the VFL go viral, although initially his raw ability needed polishing to get up to AFL standard. Some off-field issues also saw his commitment to playing AFL football questioned by the club.

    Kangaroos coach Brad Scott told The Age newspaper yesterday that it is the esteem in which those same teammates now hold him that indicates he is ready for the big stage.

    ''He's earned the respect of his teammates through his hard work,'' Scott said on Thursday.

    ''And to be completely honest with you, and Majak will be the first to tell you, his teammates probably didn't have the greatest respect for him because, initially, he didn't know how to work. This pre-season, all the boys have an enormous respect for what Maj has done.''

    World Footy News wish Majak well for Sunday, and look forward to emulating some of the success in the AFL that Sudanese basketballers have already achieved in Australia and the US.

    More at Daw finally works it out and earns debut ...

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    AFLNZ are seeking to maximise the impact of the St Kilda/Sydney game in Wellington. Leveraging on the Anzac Day game for AFL development provides a huge opportunity to initiate or further develop interest in participation.

    As such “Have a Go” days are organised at Wellington’s picturesque Test cricket oval of The Basin Reserve on Friday 26th April and then again at the home of Wellington footy at Hutt Park in the nearby Hutt Valley on Sunday 28th April.

    Hopefully this can boost numbers in the Wellington region so that a formal AFL competition can be held in 2013 after the competition never got started in 2012. There will be roles available locally for every interest level from committee, to umpiring all the way through to players!!

    For more information on attending please view Play AFL "Have A Go" Days at Basin Reserve & Hutt Park ...

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    AFL New Zealand's website has become a great resource for all the latest footy news in New Zealand.  Here's a pointer to more positive news.

    As a result of the the Hawks Cup initiative developed jointly by the Hawthorn Football Club and AFL NZ many talented athletes are being drawn to participating in footy throughout more and more of NZ.

    Some of the most talented young athletes from Northland to Otago have been identified through the Hawks Cup Secondary School competitions as well as testing combines conducted through out the country and will participate in two days of fixtures at the picturesque Hutt park.

    Those who compete have the opportunity to progress in the AFL talent pathway.

    From this tournament an initial Under 18 New Zealand Hawks squad will be selected in preparation for fixtures against Victoria to be played in Auckland in October 2013.

    Representatives from several AFL Clubs will be on hand in the hope of signing talented individuals on an International Scholarship that could lead to a professional AFL career.

    For more see:- ...

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    Mike Pyke, the Canadian ruckman who helped lead the Sydney Swans to a Premiership in 2012 is remembered in New Zealand for different reasons. Before his amazing code swap to AFL he was a rugby union international for Canada. In a country as obsessed with rugby as the Kiwis are with their All Blacks the sight of a player the size of Pyke scoring a runaway try down the wing against the pride of New Zealand leaves a memory etched in the minds of many.

    Pyke has been the centre of a TV3 news story and is also a focus within the print media with this great article. See:

    The AFL are predicting a crowd of around 20,000 and there is no doubt a connection to Pyke may lead to further interest ...

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    The journey of Hawthorn's rookie listed Kiwi, Kurt Heatherley, is explored in depth in an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald this week. He has already travelled extensively in the Pacific and Europe as a player so new to the game.

    For more, read Taking the Long Road ...

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    Ireland defeated arch-rivals the Great Britain Bulldogs 9.4 (58) to 3.4 (22) on April 12th in Dublin, avenging their earlier loss in the curtain-raiser to the AIS vs Europe match in Guildford.

    In stunning conditions in Islandbridge, Shaun McElhone’s charges won out in the Jeep International, with goals from John Enright, Vince Manning (2), Paul Comey, Tom Browne, James Flavin, Kevin Brennan and Ryan McCloskey (2).

    WFN will have an update to the World Rankings reflecting the match's results as soon as we are ab ...

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    With the AFL’s first internationally staged match for 4 points set for Thursday (Anzac Day) in Wellington in New Zealand – the Australian media in particular has had their focus upon New Zealand and the South Pacific for a change. Certainly a change from tanking, drugs, coaches, Buddy’s contract, Melbourne FC in general, etc etc. With the focus there has come some nice reports around junior development in the region. In the Age Peter Hanlon writes about Vanuatu’s Kilip Andrew ( South Pacific sings a new tune ) who will represent the South Pacific against the NZ Hawks in the curtain raiser on tomorrow.

    And from TV last night came a report on ABC’s 7:30 AFL contests possession in All Blacks country looking at footy in New Zealand with a focus on Siope Ngata who is in the squad to be reduced to 25 to represent South Pacific in Sydney in July in the NAB U/16 national championships. ...

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    The 5th annual ANZAC Cup was played in Villers-Bretonneux, France last weekend, with the French running out 41-point victors over the Aussie Spirit - a side drawn from Australians resident across Europe.

    The match has become a staple of the European footy scene, played in a town whose wartime history has a particularly strong link to Australia.

    The following report is courtesy of AFL Europe.

    In what can only be described as an amazing experience AFL Europe’s Chairman and General Manager, Chris Dow and Ben MacCormack recently attended the 5th edition of the ANZAC Cup played in historic Villers-Bretonneux, France. This event has been built by the French league and a proud bunch of Australian Ex-Pats with a deep connection to the area and the Australian Armed Forces.

    From the moment of arrival on Friday night at the organised dinner the spirit amongst both the French and Australians was obvious. Hearing the stories of why people from both sides had made the journey to represent their countries was emotional and inspiring.

    Early on the Saturday morning both teams attended a wreath laying service at the Australian War Memorial dedicated to nearly 11,000 departed Australian soliders on the battlefields of France during WW1. In the graves at the site lay brothers at arm’s from our neighbours New Zealand and allies from the UK, Canada and Ireland. This is a truly special place.

    After hearing stories of bravery and sheer determination to take the town of Villers-Bretonneux in a fierce battle three years after the bloodshed of Gallipoli on ANZAC Day it was time for a group of Australian’s to pull on the national jumper and play our indigenous game against the French national team.

    The game was physical and the contest willing as both sides worked hard to gain the early advantage. A strong mark and goal by Albury native Reece Tanner got the Aussies started and this was celebrated with earnest. It was to prove the only time the team lead a well drilled and much fitter French team. They certainly grow them tall in France as the Australian team was undersized and looking outmatched.

    After revisiting the values of the ANZAC’s the Aussies came out hard in the 2nd quarter and fought back strongly to get within 2 goals at half time. This certainly felt like a game to go to the wire.

    With a stiffening breeze blowing straight down the short ground the French piled on the pain in the 3rd quarter kicking 7 goals to 2 in what proved to be the decisive blow. The French bigs were dominant around the ground while the smalls run out the game strongly.

    The last quarter saw an early fightback by the Aussies to draw within 3 goals with plenty of time to spare. Fitness proved the difference as the quarter continued the Aussies were out on their feet. To their credit they never gave up and tried right until the siren which certainly honoured the past heroes of this area.

    France Australia
    Q1 6.7 (43) 2.2 (14)
    Q2 10.10 (70) 8.6 (54)
    Q3 17.13 (115) 10.8 (68)
    Q4 21.16 (142) 15.11 (101)

    Goal Kickers:

    France: James-Robert Theis 4, Wilfried Houvion 3, Grégoire Patacq 3, Emilien Martinez 3, Valentin Mendoza 3, Loïc Besnard 2, Julien Bonnefoi, Nicolas Vautrin, Guillaume Lautré
    Australia: Reece Tanner 4, Jamie Wilson 4, Joe Durling 2, Ben MacCormack 2, Nathan O’Neill 2, Huw Ryan

    Best on ground: Grégoire Patacq & Reece Tanner

    The original version of this article can be found on the AFL Europe website here ...

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    The following is the run down for the historic Australian football ANZAC Day event today (April 25th) at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand.

    5.00pm New Zealand Hawks v South Pacific Academy
    7.15pm Samantha Jade and Stan Walker perform
    7.25pm Joint cheers squad banner display
    7.27pm Match footballs delivered by children of NZ veterans
    7.28pm Sydney Swans enter arena
    7.31pm St Kilda Saints enter arena
    - Observance Ceremony Guard turns outward and rest on arms
    - The Ode to the fallen in Te Reo recited by Warrant Officer Dave Lark, RNZAK and in English recited by RSA National President, Lieutenant General, Don McIver
    - The Last Post
    - Minute silence
    - The Rouse – flags raised
    - The Australian national anthem will be performed by Samantha Jade and the NZ national anthem will be performed in Te Reo and English by Stan Walker
    7.48pm Coin toss
    7.50pm Match starts
    10.15pm (approx) Presentation of the Anzac Medal and the Simpsons-Henderson Trophy

    The historic Anzac Day match between the St Kilda Saints v Sydney Swans is the first AFL premiership match to be played outside Australia. The match will be exclusively broadcast live in New Zealand from 7.30pm local time on SKY Television, Wellington 1503AM, Auckland 1332AM & On-Line at ‘Listen Live Sport Extra’. In Australia it is live on pay TV provider Foxtel.

    Tickets are still available and can be purchased at ...

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    The curtain raiser match at last nights historic first AFL match for premierships points on 'foreign' soil saw the South Pacific Academy U/18s go down to the New Zealand Hawks.

    The article below is courtesy of the AFL Pacific - WFN had their own correspondent at the event and a full WFN report on the day will be available in shortly.

    AFL South Pacific Academy U/18’s

    New Zealand Hawks 8 6 54
    South Pacific 18’s 3 3 21

    Best players: Fletcher Barclay (NZ), Yoshi Harris (Nauru), Jeconiah Peni (PNG), Ben Miller (New Zealand), James MacKenzie (New Zealand), Theo Gavuri (PNG)

    Goal Kickers: Barclay 2, Mong 1.

    The New Zealand Hawks proved too big and strong in a hotly contested affair against the best of South Pacific under 18s on Thursday night. Conducted as a curtain raiser to the St. Kilda vs Sydney Swans AFL home and away match at Westpac Stadium, there were over 3000 spectators in attendance to cheer on New Zealand.

    AFL PNG had six participants with Jeconiah Peni having an outstanding match in the midfield. Theo Gavuri had a serviceable game and Alphonse Jambafuro worked his way into the contest after a slow start. Chris Mong took a spectacular mark in the last quarter and kicked truly to record the South Pacific's third and final goal. PNG's Michael Macca (groin) and Jason So'ong (hamstring) carried injuries into the match and were unable to have a significant impact

    The South Pacific young men participated today in a huge come and try day at the famous Basin Reserve Ground. St. Kilda players attended and our boys assisted them to conduct clinics and play 9-a-side football.

    A return match will played on Sunday at Hutt Reserve on Sunday where the young South Pacific squad hope to turn the tables on their open age New Zealand opponents.


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  • 04/26/13--00:08: The True Magic of Wadeye
  • “Football has a long history in the community of Wadeye that dates back to the start of the Mission in June of 1935. The families of Wadeye had their own traditional sport that involved throwing a man-made paperbark ball covered in kangaroo hide. However when the Mission arrived, Father Docherty (or Yile Ngala as he is referred to by the locals) and some indigenous men from Darwin, introduced the football and the art of kicking. From that point on AFL has been the game of choice for everyone in the community.”

    This introduction to the footballing heritage of the Wadeye community is provided by Katrina Bushby, the Club Development Manager at the Wadeye Magic Football Club, in one of the many remote parts of the Northern Territory. Katrina’s keen insight into the development of the game is a great starting point for one of the more remarkable footy stories in Australia.

    Wadeye, formerly known as Port Keats, is in the far north-west corner of the Northern Territory on the western boundary of the Daly River Reserve, near Hyland Bay. It is 230 kilometres by air from Darwin, and further by road – assuming the roads are open, as they are often cut by flooding during the “wet” season.

    In tracing the history of the game in Wadeye, it is interesting to consider the development of the community. The Aboriginal family groups who lived off the land in the Wadeye and nearby Werntek Nganayi lived by fishing and hunting. Long before their first contact with white man they traded with the Macassans from Indonesia for beche-de-mer (sea cucumber). It was 1935, however, when Father Docherty arrived and started his mission at Werntek Nganayi, later moving it to the current site at Wadeye.

    But the game of Australian Rules football has grown within this environment, and lately prospered. According to Katrina, “It is impossible to walk down the main street in town and not see an avid fan wearing a supporter’s guernsey. Everybody has a friend or family member on the team so it is a real place of pride. The local council has even gone as far as painting a giant Wadeye Magic logo on the side of the Sport and Recreation Hall that is impossible to miss. Local indigenous bands have even written songs about the football team that range from acoustic ballads to heavy metal anthems. The team really is something special.”

    Interestingly, the jumper worn by Wadeye players is a measure of the community pride. According to Clare Rawlinson and Charlie King, in an article for the ABC, the design was “chosen after students and members of the community were invited to make designs. The jersey depicts a tribesman holding a spear and uses the traditional Aboriginal flag colours of red, black and yellow.”

    But this image is a far cry from the Wadeye of the previous decade. This indigenous community, the largest in the Northern Territory with a population of close to 3000 people, was almost torn apart by violence, gang warfare and despair. The Age newspaper stated in 2006 that “gang violence has turned the remote indigenous community of Wadeye into a war zone.” Varying degrees of action and inaction over the years seemed to have little or no impact on the escalation in “anti-social behaviour”, as it was simplistically described in some government circles. That description missed the point a little by believing the issue was behavioural, not acknowledging the depth of gang and clan divisions which were tearing the community apart and driving people’s emotions, beliefs, lifestyles and behaviour.

    But then Australian Government youth funding grants, along with corporate support and local sponsorship, became available from 2007 and the AFLNT was able to direct that money through the AFL Remote Regional Development Program to Wadeye. This same program has since funded the employment of AFLNT Development Officers in other remote Northern Territory communities such as Maningrida, Gapuwiyak, Galiwinku, Lajamanu, Groote Eylandt, Ngukurr and Hermannsburg.

    And this, in turn, led to the birth of the Wadeye Magic. The local competition that had been running for years, and subject to the ebbs and flows of community needs and situations, was now able to unite behind a single entity. The Wadeye Magic were admitted into the NTFL competition – and made a powerful statement immediately, defeating the Palmerston Magpies by 78 points.

    The magic of Wadeye had arrived.

    Tony Frawley, AFLNT CEO, once said in an ABC interview. "people say how could you get a team from Wadeye in [the NTFL] and we’ve done it." Presumably this comment includes not only the efforts of the AFLNT, but also the community of Wadeye who came together to make something special happen.

    Katrina Bushby looks at the current position for Wadeye Magic this way. "We currently have 6 local teams that make up the Wadeye Football League and it is from these teams that our Wadeye Magic boys are selected to compete in the NTFL. Although we have limited positions on the team we can have anywhere between 30-50 men training at a time during season.

    "Wadeye has had a turbulent past, but the Wadeye Magic gives the community and all of the different families the opportunity to come together as one for a positive cause. To be on the team the players have to either be employed, at school or taking part in some form of training. They must also undergo regular health checks and take part in educational workshops. This criteria was established to promote personal development and the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices. It also ensures that the football club is giving back to the community as most of our sponsors are internal."

    The future is certainly looking rosier than it might have done 5 years ago, but with the government committing to an additional 10 years of funding to the programs which assisted this change, this future has the chance to grow further.

    But Katrina still adds a note of caution. “Our most prominent threat at the moment is sponsorship. We have had two incredibly successful half season trials, however this year we [will] aim for our first full season and to do so will require a significant amount of financial support. Due to our remote location, flying the entire team to Darwin and back on a weekly basis is an expensive task and unfortunately due to the conditions during the wet season we are unable to drive due to the flooding of the Daly River.”

    But if the Wadeye community can find solutions to these challenges with the same determination and zeal as they have shown to reunite their home, then anything in their future is possible.

    Wadeye may not have pulled a rabbit out of the hat. But they have replaced despair with hope, confusion with confidence, fear with optimism and a fractured community with unity.

    And that’s just… Magic.

    Wadeye football in the 1950s

    The Wadeye Magic in the modern era


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    Rod Shaw is World Footy News' New Zealand correspondent but now based in Victoria.  In a bold move for a volunteers-based website we sent him to Wellington for the first AFL regular season match to be played outside of Australia.  Rod has had a long involvement in footy in Wellington and was New Zealand's senior coach at the 2002 International Cup.

    Last night saw the historic first game for Premiership points played in Wellington. The Sydney Swans went on to win in a hard fought game over the St Kilda Saints. Brodie Murdoch on debut for the Saints kicked long into the forward line and Justin Koschitzke, playing his first game for the year, clutched a strong grab and converted. He has the honour of scoring the first goal on an international field in an AFL game that really matters (i.e. not pre-season or exhibition).

    For me it was a coming home in a sense, having spent over ten years in Wellington I had the good fortune to participate in all three pre-season games in various ways held between 1998-2002.

    Without a doubt this game has been set up for success far better in so many ways than the earlier pre-season games.

    With the addition of the Gold Coast Suns and the Great Western Sydney Giants the drafts were compromised severely affecting the other 16 AFL Clubs from accessing the best young talent. Visionary clubs such as Hawthorn stepped out to get players of a suitable standard from elsewhere.  They set up a Memorandum of Understanding with AFLNZ and the AFL to set up talent identification programs such as the Hawks Cup that also helps NZ football to build a base of players and real awareness of the game.

    Meanwhile St Kilda used a different approach. They have held a couple of community camps in NZ and once they got permission to play the Anzac game they have drip fed a variety of players, coaches and administrators to Wellington in the months preceding the game. This has helped them gain great media coverage. I have been assured by my many friends and contacts in Wellington that this game has been a source of discussion in many workplaces around and about the capital.

    In the week preceding the game the amount of coverage in all forms of media has been sensational and is a direct result of the preparation put into the game by all the stakeholders inclusive of the AFL, St Kilda, Sydney, AFLNZ and not least the Wellington City Council.

    The Wellington City Council have over the past 15 years been proactive in bringing AFL to NZ. They have worked with the business community to finally go from wish to reality. New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has gone so far as to say last night that given that NZ has representative teams in the Australian Basketball, Soccer and Rugby League competitions that he sees no reason that they shouldn't have one in the AFL as well.

    By the time St Kilda held up their run through stating "Thank You Wellington, New Zealand" you could tell they were the crowd favourites.

    Many would say that the crowd of 22,564 was not that great. Having spoken with many locals what needs to be kept in mind is that they feel that the Hurricanes and the Phoenix have not drawn a crowd anywhere near this size for over 3 years.

    With the Anzac Ceremony including maori versions of what was said the game had a unique sense. I think on Anzac Day many Australians forget that there is no Anzac without remembering the Kiwis and this was soon apparent with the singing of the National Anthems. A modest version of Advance Australia Fair was followed by a spine tingling version of God Defend New Zealand in maori and English which was a clear sign of the overwhelming number of Kiwis in the crowd.

    It would be easy to assume that the crowd was mainly expatrates or visiting Aussies of which there are said to have been 4500.  I find that very easy to believe having travelled over myself and wandered through the streets of Wellington.

    However the crowd was drawn from far further afield than Wellington or Australia. There is no doubt that the  AFLNZ junior development programs would have contributed many families to the event but one lady I spoke to came from rural Masterton as she had seen a game on TV some years ago that had caught her attention, another couple I sat next to had travelled down 5 hours from the Bay of Plenty resplendent in their Brisbane Lions gear because they had lived in Brisbane for 5 years. These are just a couple of examples to support the idea that games in NZ will draw a crowd regardless of the distance.

    A thing to remember in considering whether AFL games are really a long term addition to the NZ sporting landscape is that NZ has many connections with Australia and as a result already has awareness of the game, and in many cases some attraction to it.

    So suggestions for future games-

    • Keep the pricing sharp. I heard many times that the entry price was attractive for the average person and family to attend.
    • The AFL and involved Clubs need to keep drip feeding interest stories into the market and find the identities to support a connection with the game - the young fellers trailblazing as international rookies or the established players with NZ heritage.
    • Stakeholders working with AFL NZ to continue to support the great grass roots programs they are delivering and the talent identification progams they are running.
    • The game needs to start earlier. The curtain raiser  which I will write on in a further article was played between the NZ Hawks and the South Pacific Under 18 academy. Certainly this game was played man on man rather than with the zones familiar to AFL followers and the dourness that usually is the lot of a Swans/Saints game. But there was more clean football and was a far better spectacle than what resulted in the main game with players slipping regularly and players struggling to handle the ball effectively in damp conditions.
    • Another reason for starting earlier is that the AFL should want families to attend. With a game starting at nearly 8pm and finishing around 11 o'clock this is really not feasible. Two friends of mine who played in the Wellington competition and for NZ had to take their sons home at half time. This is not going to help in convincing the kids to really follow AFL.

    Overall however it was a marvellous experience and kudos to all involved.  More reports to follow. ...

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    The AFL Anzac Day clash was not all about the Swans and the Saints. A crowd which grew from around 100 to 2000 spectators saw a very good game of running football played between the NZ Hawks and the South Pacific Academy U18's.

    Predictably the Hawks won, with an average age of 22 against a younger and far less experienced team. Many of the Hawks had been part of the game against the AIS in January so had experience of the venue and experience playing together.

    With nine of the younger Hawks part of the South Pacific team, it gave a chance for a further group of players to represent their country for the first time. NZ coaching team member Justin Davies said that "In the end this allows another group of players to get used to our systems and practices and then return to their home areas and implement these there".

    The game began with about 100 in the crowd but with it being nearly three hours before the kick off of the main game this is hardly a surprise. The bounce waited while the Kiwis did their traditional haka which as always is impressive to witness.

    The first quarter saw things fairly tight with an early goal to Sam Mackenzie for the Hawks being matched by the South Pacific's Fletcher Barclay. Both were to prove to be their team's main avenue to goal throughout the game. The Hawks went forward again after a fair bit of play within the arcs. Mackenzie put in a big tackle and was rewarded in front of goal with the opportunity converted. GWS's rookie listed Nauruan Yoshi Harris was proving very strong in defence for the South Pacific but eventually a free was awarded to Howison before being gifted a 50 m penalty. The siren sounded and he slotted it straight through with the scores:-

    NZ Hawks 3.1 (18) to South Pacific 1.0 (6)

    The second quarter saw the South Pacific defending steadfastly but simply unable to move the ball any further than the wing. With the Hawks constantly pumping it in a strong lead and mark saw Mackenzie slot his third for the evening. PNG's Chris Mong was giving the South Pacific some real toe through the centre but the game was being played between the arcs.

    Canterbury's Aaron Harris was dominating in the air for NZ consistently winning the ball with his clean grabs and sending it forward. During this period Melbourne's rookie Maia Westrupp was doing a bit with some strong tackling for the South Pacific and the influence of the Hawthorn international rookie Ben Miller started to become very noticeable with his strong marking, clear thinking and effective ball use.

    Eventually this see-sawing battle had to come to an end and it was through the NZ Hawks Vice Captain Michael Gregson, a clever rover, sending the ball forward, reading the drop and getting a minor score on the board with his snap.

    PNG's Jacobiah Peni was working hard to get the ball out of defence for the South Pacific but eventually the ball was pumped into the Hawks Will Gregson who marked and goaled.

    The South Pacific were certainly working hard and were able to move the ball forward where young New Zealander Fletcher Barclay again marked strongly and goaled.

    Young New Zealanders James Mackenzie and Hugo Phillips were working well with their intercepts with a long kick on the siren resulting in another mark to Fletcher Barclay. His shot after the siren went into the stands on the full.

    Half time Scores: NZ Hawks 5.3 (33) to South Pacific 2.0 (12)

    As a spectacle, the game offered much with man to man footy, strong overhead marking and an ability from both teams to run and spread well when in possession.

    By the start of the third quarter the crowd was about 300. Once again, neither side could move the ball far forward as play swang between the arcs. PNG's Theo Gavuri and the Hawthorn listed New Zealander Siope Ngata were standouts with Gavuri's pace and Ngata's strong marking. NZ scored another 3 points with Mackenzie and Duncan keeping the young South Pacific defenders very busy. Peni and young New Zealander Kade Riddell were both solid with their defensive efforts for the Academy team.

    Eventually experienced NZ Hawk James Kusel hit the base of a pack hard crumbing cleanly, squared up and slotted a goal. Another noticeable advancement with the standard of this game was that despite both teams tackling hard and effectively there was none of the need to bury an opponent that was a staple of earlier Kiwi generations of footballers. This meant players stayed on their feet more often and moved on to the next phase of play.

    As the quarter closed out MIchael Gregson again got forward and as he crumbed was tripped. He cooly went back and popped it through from the square on the siren.

    Three Quarter time: NZ Hawks 7.6 (48) to South Pacific 2.0 (12)

    The crowd had swelled to 600, now giving a good competitive game a reasonable audience. A free kick to the Hawks Mundell was centred to the ever dangerous Mackenzie who shot truly for his fourth of the evening. Both sides were moving the ball well, looking to spread and carry the ball which saw Maia Westrupp head forward for the academy and launch a long bomb which was pushed through for a point.

    For a period the South Pacific had dominance with Ben Miller, Kade Riddell and Theo Gavuri prominent. Nauru's Jonah Eoe eventually snapped for the South Pacific but his shot was rushed through for a point. The very pacy Chris Mong then raced forward taking a grab in the square for the South Pacific and had no problem converting.

    Riddell, Miller and Ngata again were dominant for the South Pacific with a highlight being a great sidestep thrown in by Kade Riddell. All this possession lead to a mark in the pocket by Barclay. He bent the ball left to right but his point was to be the last score of a very entertaining game.

    The game finished in front of a crowd of around 2000 which was a good result given we were still well over an hour before the main attraction.

    Final Scores: NZ Hawks 8.6 (54) to South Pacific 3.3 (21)

    With Andrew Demetriou saying before the main game that NZ was "Unquestionably the greatest growth market for football outside of Australia" this was very evident from both the NZ Hawks players and the nine junior Hawks players in the South Pacific side.

    Well-known AFL International identity Andrew Cadzow noted that the Academy side was not its strongest, as 5 PNG players eligible for the team were left playing in the Queensland State League as it was thought better for their football, Shem Tatupu was on his two week training session with the Hawks and Kurt Heatherley is recovering from injury. However, he was still very happy with the efforts of his team. He said "the absence of such a talented group of players only adds weight to the great developments that are occurring in the South Pacific".

    That is a statement I couldn't agree more with and well done to all invol ...

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    For the many of us who dream of Australian football expanding more rapidly internationally there can be no doubt what would most accelerate the growth in any given country - having their own AFL club.  So it was unexpected music to our ears to hear (or in fact read) the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key declare that his country should have an AFL side.

    The comment came at an official function prior to the St Kilda - Sydney match in Wellington.  Key said the unique relationship between the countries, coupled with a fierce mutual sporting rivalry, made the concept a perfect platform for the Australian game.

    ''Let's get real,'' he said. ''We've got to get a New Zealand side in the AFL. We've got the Breakers and we've got the Warriors - well, they've been struggling a bit lately - we need our own AFL team.''

    Also present was Australia's Minister for Sport, Kate Lundy, and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, who was quoted only as saying that he planned to ''have a chat'' with Key at a later date.

    Of course Australia and New Zealand have very close ties, and Prime Minister Key has been exposed to Aussie Rules previously, including at the Pacific Islands Forum four years ago in Cairns when the AFL staged a match between a Pacific Islands side and a North Queensland All Stars team.  Key is pictured here with former Brisbane Lions great Mal Michael and the Pacific Islands captain, Donald Barry (PNG).

    Demetriou described New Zealand as ''unquestionably our fastest growth market outside Australia'', and congratulated Anzac Day host St Kilda for its vision.  The AFL's number two, Gillon McLachlan, has also alluded to a possible future in which the Kiwis have their own club.  But the impression was that any such outcome would be 20+ years down the track and only after a lot of ground work.  However, when the leader of a country talks, surely the AFL will keenly listen.

    If no current clubs fold, merge or are prepared to move, then this author would delight in seeing 19th and 20th clubs enter the AFL in the next 15 years - namely Tasmania and one from New Zealand (be it targeted country wide or at a specific city such as Wellington or Auckland).  One of two main stumbling blocks in both cases would appear to be where to stage games.  In Tasmania's case the small population is split between north and south, however with two stadiums now upgraded to AFL standard and in regular use by Hawthorn and North Melbourne that issue has abated and a Tassie team could play games at both.  In the Kiwi case Auckland has the population but Wellington has the most appropriate stadium.  But again, if the NZ PM is serious, upgrading a stadium would be a relatively modest issue.  The other difficult issue is the success or otherwise of the recent expansion clubs Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants.  If they continue to struggle and drain the AFL coffers then bold plans may be far from the AFL Commission's thoughts.  On field success will come, but off field, truthfully no one knows.

    So there are many factors that will dictate the future course of the sport in New Zealand - the vision of the AFL Commission, the success of subsequent Wellington matches, the uptake amongst possible young players, the health of the Suns and the Giants, and the political imperatives on both sides of the Ditch. But suddenly in April 2013 the future looks tantalisingly closer than it did just 12 months ...

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    St Kilda have finally found their first international rookie in Porirua College's Joseph Baker-Thomas.

    Joseph is 16 years old and around 193 cm. He has a background in a variety of sports including rugby, League, volleyball and basketball.

    He has played 4 games of AFL 9's and played his first three games of full football at this week's NZ U18 Championships.

    In speaking with him today he said "I am hugely excited about this opportunity and hope I can make the most of it".

    Having seen him today on The Basin whilst Wellington had further Aussie Rules action with St Kilda meeting their supporters at the AFL NZ Have a Go day there is no doubt that he has the physical attributes to potentially play AFL.

    St Kilda Head of Football, Chris Pelchen, said “His athleticism stood out to our recruiting staff here in New Zealand and obviously having that rugby pedigree we think he is in really good frame to play our sport,” Pelchen said.

    “While he has only played a handful of AFL (sic) games we think there is opportunity for him to develop into an AFL player in the future.”

    Baker-Thomas will be based in New Zealand and undertake a development program implemented by St Kilda, with the support of AFLNZ.

    “Joe is in year 13 which is the final year of schooling in Wellington so he will continue to reside here and at the end of year we will review it with an open mind,” Pelchen said.

    Pelchen said the signing, which was announced on the day of St Kilda’s historic premiership match in Wellington, wouldn’t be the only one under the Saints’ international scholarship program.

    “Over the next 12 months we expect to sign a number of scholarship players.  While Joe is the first, the intention is that he won’t be the last.”

    Up to eight athletes each year can be signed under an international scholarship, with the position sitting outside St Kilda’s primary and rookie list, as well as its Total Player Payments. ...

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    Friday 26th April saw a united effort from the AFL, AFL NZ and the St Kilda Saints in a 4 hour promotion at Wellington's prestigious Basin Reserve.

    Well over 1,000 participants attended the event, which had a "Meet the Saints" component that drew a number of their Melbourne based fans. For footy in NZ, it was more about allowing for direct action to follow up the previous night's game to increase particiaption and interest.

    AFLNZ Board Chairman Geoff Dickson sees the game as a great leverage point. "Well, the game is over and we are the ones who really have to care about, and develop, footy now," said Dickson.

    He continued, "What the game may enable our organisation to do is to get into more schools quicker and perhaps to attract more of the elite players to the game, whether from the Rugby First XV, League First XIII or Soccer First XI."

    "The good work that has resulted from Hawthorn's visionary investment in NZ, noticeably through the Hawks Cup, has allowed for a growth in paid staff. This has created extraordinarily good results, as can be seen by the quality of our underage Championships and the development of our various National sides."

    "We feel we are very well placed to continue to work with other stakeholders in the advancement of the game and look forward to the opportunity."

    From the many skill development activities on the ground and minor games occurring, it was evident that Geoff's vision for the future had a very firm foothold to develop from.

    With children not just coming along to meet the Saints but actually enjoying the many activities, it was a real credit to the AFLNZ organisation. The players of the NZ Hawks and South Pacific Academy sides who had played the previous evening were busy working with the participants, as were the many players who had participated in the NZ U18 Championships on the days preceding the Anzac Match.

    What AFLNZ is doing particularly well, is getting strategic buy-in from their many junior and senior players to assist with the various promotional activities. Whether it was selling the "Records" on the Concourse, greeting the spectators at the Anzac game, or assisting in grass roots activities such as those at The Basin today, it was all done with willingness and a smile.

    Having had the chance to have a chat to some of the young players who ranged from Otago in the South, to Wellington and the far Northland, with even one from the Bay of Plenty where Melbourne's Maia Westrupp hails from, the overwhelming response when asked how the week had gone for them was " fantastic, this is a great game, a lot of fun, pretty easy to learn and is giving us great opportunities".

    Pleasingly Mick Coultard and Shannon Wall, both heavily involved with the AFL NZ U18 sides said there had also been a lot of adult interest. "Where can I get involved?" was a common enquiry. With the Wellington competition looking to re-launch in 2013 after having a year in recess this sort of enthusiasm is just the tonic needed.

    Equally good would be interested adults in other areas who may like to look at developing some form of footy in their regions.

    Certainly there is no denying that many opportunities will arise from the first Anzac Day game and given what was seen and heard at The Basin yesterday there can be little doubt that AFLNZ look well placed to succ ...

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