Sunday, January 23, 2011


This Singapore skyline has been home to the Singapore Wombats since 1993.

Looking out the window to the Singapore skyline at another 27 - 31 degree day it's hard to believe they don't play Aussie Rules football here everyday. The truth of the matter is that in terms of the International Aussie Rules landscape, Asia and the rest of the world are very different - for now anyway.

Japanese Samurai IC 2008
While the core of nearly every football program around the world starts with a bunch of homesick Australians, most North American and European programs have blossomed into leagues that include an ever growing number of eager locals. There will be a host of European countries that don't quite make it to IC 2011, but you can guarantee they all have 2014 penciled into the calendars.

Asian Aussie Rules programs, of which there are plenty, for the most part are made up of ex-pat Australians. It's not a criticism of the Aussie's that have invested the time to build a foundation for their beloved past-time, but a huge opportunity to capitalize on the hard work that has already been invested. Too often the opinion that 'Asians aren't sporty', or 'Asians aren't big enough' to play Aussie Rules are thrown out by those who have neither the desire or knowledge to scratch the surface and discover the truth. It's not a completely barren landscape of local involvement, Japan has competed in all three Aussie Rules International Cups with increasingly impressive results, 8th place in 2008 a clear indication that the potential is undoubtedly there. China and India's first cup appearances all pointing toward what very well may be the next Asian wave of International teams making the grade.

The AFL although having been slow to see the potential in International growth have at last taken their eye off Ireland's wealth of pre-made footballers and are starting to cast it where real grass-roots potential awaits - China. The match between Melbourne and Brisbane played on Chinese soil recently the first real stepping stone to forging a newly discovered local fan base for our game. Asia is home to nearly 4 billion people, North America and Europe combined somewhere in the vicinity of 1.5  billion. Add to that the huge bonus that the 'Asian Invasion' has in regards to location and all the factors point toward a new hot spot for our game.

The Islands of Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Samoa are the hot topic of new hunting grounds for undiscovered talent right now, rightly so as the quality of raw young footballers unearthed there is outstanding. They definitely have the close proximity to Australia in their pros 'check box', but can't even come close to Asia in terms of population and long term potential for 'critical mass'.

The international expansion of Aussie Rules is growing rapidly, paving the way in new markets is a long and arduous task that doesn't always deliver results quickly. But rest assure that when the Asian Invasion begins, there will be no stopping it.