Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Image Courtesy of: Halifax Dockers

Aussie Rules in Canada has enjoyed a purple patch of late. Mike Pyke’s rise to fame and imminent AFL Grand Final appearance with the Sydney Swans has coincided with solid growth on his home soil. Most of the Canadian leagues - spread across four of the thirteen provinces and territories - have expanded their number of teams in recent years, some even adding women’s divisions and second tier competitions.

That purple patch is set to continue with the exciting new formation of the Halifax Dockers; a team looking to break new ground and promote Aussie Rules on a completely new frontier: the province of Nova Scotia.

When Halifax-based Aussies Jonah Scott and Joel Porter met around three years ago, their love of the game led them to get out for a kick whenever they could. Through word of mouth and the interested eyes of some curious onlookers, their group slowly began to grow. It wasn’t long before the boys from Halifax; located fourteen hours from their closest rival Aussie Rules club, had outgrown the one ragged yellow Sherrin that had been the centrepiece of their existence.

Eager to keep developing a call was placed to the Ontario AFL for some assistance. In true Canadian spirit the league was happy to help. They directed the group to Halifax-based and former OAFL player Aaron Adams who was able to supply the new team with four footballs. Finally armed with enough equipment to run a proper skills session the group committed to a regular training schedule two times a week. Further assistance came from AFL Québec aiding Jonah Scott’s quest for a junior development program at Charles P. Allen High, the school where he teaches. Combined with a Facebook page that was launched in the winter of 2011/12, the Halifax Australian Rules Football Club was able to lift their regular training numbers to an impressive twenty players.

The next boost in the team’s journey came when they contacted the Fremantle Football Club seeking support. Jonah and Joel’s hard work and persistence would once again pay off, securing the Dockers as official partners. So committed to promoting International Aussie Rules were Wade Spickler and the Fremantle F.C, that they outfitted Halifax in red Dockers heritage jumpers to ensure they wouldn’t clash with Fremantle’s other partner club in the region, and Halifax’s closest rivals; the Old Montréal Dockers.

Co-founder Jonah Scott has big plans for footy in Halifax: “I would love to have men’s, women’s and high school leagues running in Halifax in 5 years time. As I say this it seems like a big task, but, the enthusiasm that I have seen from the high school students that I have coached has convinced me that this is a possibility in five years”.

The start of Scott’s grand plan will begin in 2013 when Halifax launches its own 9-a-side league. As with many new clubs, the biggest hurdle now is finances and equipment. Scott remarked “The support that we have received so far from the Fremantle Dockers Football Club, AFL Canada, the Quebec AFL and the Ontario AFL has been amazing” and added “Looking at costs related to field rental, insurance, travel and Canada AFL membership [for next season], to develop Australian Rules further in Halifax we are going to need financial support through sponsorship.” While growth has been well structured and a steady increase from day one, crucial items such as a website and additional footballs could very likely see Aussie Rules explode in the Canadian Maritimes city next year.

Footy has now expanded into five provinces within Canada, a sure sign that the game in America’s Great White North is gaining momentum. For Halifax, right now it’s full steam ahead as they prepare for their first official match. As the closest Aussie Rules inhabited city, Montreal’s marquee Pre-Season Cup event in April next year could be the Dockers perfect place to start. The tournament has boasted visiting teams from Toronto, New York, Boston and Ottawa in the past, and would be the ideal event to showcase Canada’s newest member to the footy family. Scott was eager to see his charges tested against the regions best “That is a very exciting prospect. I know I can speak for all the Halifax Dockers when I say that we would love to be a part of the tournament. It might work out that our very first game as the Halifax Dockers will happen at that event. Fingers crossed!”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


2012 Asian Australian Football Champions: Hong Kong Dragons

In one of the most tightly contested and entertaining tournaments of recent years, the Hong Kong Dragons have prevailed victorious, claiming the 2012 Asian Champs crown.

For picture from the tournament click here.

The nine competing teams from South-East Asian were treated to glorious sunshine and the pristine fields of the Thailand Polo Club as they arrived at the venue in South Bangkok. The two football ovals constructed side-by-side on the vast expanses of the Polo pitch were arguably some of Asia’s best Aussie Rules playing surfaces.

The tournament format saw each team square-off against four randomly selected opponents in a 2 x 10 minute half; round-robin format. The four highest placed teams advanced to a 1 v 4, 2 v 3 semi-final stage. A modest 2-3 goal breeze favoured one end, adding an extra twist to the games, the battle for each victory very much a tale of two halves.

The first surprise of the day was the shock early exit of perennial grand finalist Singapore. Pitted against three of the four eventual semi-finalists, the reigning champs could not overcome their tough preliminary round draw and a penchant for slow starts. Narrow losses to the reinvigorated squads of Vietnam and Malaysia forced a do-or-die clash in game three against arch-rivals Jakarta. Surging in the latter stages of the game after another sluggish start, Singapore had drawn even with less than a minute remaining in the match. The Bintangs then worked the ball from defence and with barely a second on the clock took a running shot on goal from forty metres out. The siren blared as the ball hurtled toward goal in mid-air, the sound of the leather Sherrin smacking into the goal post and the resulting behind ending the Wombats back-to-back title aspirations.

Hong Kong emerged from the preliminary rounds as the only unbeaten team, doing so by narrowly escaping with a 5 point victory over Jakarta. The Bintangs 3-1 record good enough for third place. The impressive 2012 continued for the Malaysian Warriors as they secured second place with superior percentage, also finishing with a single loss, conceding a 1 point nail biter to Vietnam. The Swans proved how open the battle for the cup was by rounding out the final four with a well deserved 3-1 record themselves.   

The round-robin schedule also produced an unexpected mini-final in the last game of the day. First time tourists the Philippines Eagles went head-to-head with the Laos Elephants, both teams without a victory and looking to avoid the unenvied moniker as winless wooden spooners. After twenty minutes of tough, desperate footy, the “Phants” clad in their eye-catching pink guernseys had outlasted the Philippines to the tune of 7 points, consigning the Eagles to the bottom of the table.

As the first semi-final got underway there were more than a few nervous glances in the Dragon camp as the Vietnam Swans controlled much of the early play. Defending well and with the aid of the breeze at their backs, the plucky Swans registered the first two behinds of the match and looked likely to build some real scoreboard pressure. However, as the half wore on, Vietnam was squandering their chances up forward. The class of the Dragons shone through as they snatched back momentum scoring two late goals before the main break.  Kicking against the wind in the last half, the gallant Swans were unable to bridge the gap and were eventually overrun by 19 points. Hong Kong 4.4 (28) def. Vietnam 1.3 (9).

Malaysia made a brilliant start in their quest for a first ever Asian Champs Grand Final berth using the breeze to slip out to an early two goal lead. Their early dominance was curbed by a solid effort from the Jakarta back six who did well to get the Bintangs to half-time only 10 points adrift. The final stanza would prove an epic battle between two deserving teams. The Warriors stood tall faced with the prospect of defending their lead into the breeze, but the experience of the Bintangs would eventually force the first crack in the Warrior armour, a goal to Jakarta edging the Indonesian team back to within 4 points. The final five minutes of play saw the ball reach both goal squares on numerous occasions, the final few metres needed to score a game defining 6 points seemingly just out of reach of both combatants. It was a fortunate bounce and a swooping Bintang snap on goal that broke the deadlock. With barely more than a minute in the game Jakarta had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Malaysia would get the ball forward twice in the dying moments whilst cries of “Warriors, we need a goal! We need a goal!” rang out from the bench. The Jakarta full-back carrying the weight of his team refused to concede and the ball was repelled on both occasions. Locked in an exhausted pack of players on the wing, the siren sounded and propelled Jakarta into their first Grand Final in nine years.

Well into the mid-afternoon after an 8am start, the Grand Final would reveal which team had managed their list best in the sweltering South Bangkok sun. Jakarta started well with the wind stunning the Dragons by skipping away to an early lead. Hong Kong had enough of the ball inside their attacking fifty to keep their eager opponents on a tight leash, but crucial misses to the Dragons would see them head into the main break 9 points behind. Hong Kong 1.4 (10) trailing Jakarta 3.1 (19).

The game had slowed to a crawl as fatigue took over and every contest became game defining. Longer halves for the final hinted to the fact the Bintangs 9 point lead might not be enough to see them home. The Dragons rose to the occasion slowly reeling in the deficit and then finally putting their noses back in front. Refusing to give-in Jakarta fought on strongly. But a solid Hong Kong mark and goal from thirty-five metres out directly in front put the game beyond doubt. Finishing the stronger of the two teams, Hong Kong added five last half goals to secure a hard earned and well deserved Asian Champs title. Hong Kong 6.7 (43) def. Jakarta 4.1 (25).

Final Standings
1. Hong Kong Dragons
2. Jakarta Bintangs
3. Malaysia Warriors
4. Vietnam Swans
5. Thailand Tigers
6. Singapore Wombats
7. Bali Geckos
8. Laos Elephants
9. Philippines Eagles     

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Singapore at Malaysia 2012
Bangkok airport will be overrun by flying Sherrins and Aussie Rules banter this coming weekend as ten nations descend on the land of smiles to fight out the fourteenth annual Asian Australian Football Championships. It will be the fourth time the Thailand Tigers host the largely ex-pat dominated tournament affectionately known as the ‘Asian Champs’. In a change from previous years, Pattaya has been selected as the host city over traditional venue Bangkok.

The full-day tournament is often played in sweltering Asian heat making player management, a sizable playing list and shrewd coaching moves just as important as the individual efforts on the field. 2011 saw the Vietnam Swans, Hong Kong Dragons, Indonesia Bintangs and Singapore Wombats emerge as the top four teams from the group stages to square off in the semi-finals. The Dragons and Wombats would eventually win their way through to the Grand Final, Singapore victorious over Hong Kong in a tough match to claim a record fifth crown.

The region’s ‘Big Three’ of Singapore (5), Hong Kong (3) and Indonesia (2) currently lay claim to ten of the thirteen championships. No other participating team has been able to break through for the coveted title. While the regular season form of touring teams is always hard to gauge as squads vary greatly while abroad, the Malaysian Warriors have impressed in 2012 with some eye catching performances both at home and away. The addition of former St Kilda ruckman Michael Rix and an injection of classy youth in the midfield have led to the team’s most successful year to date; claiming the Manilla 12’s Cup back in May. It all bodes well for the weekend’s action and one of the closest and most unpredictable battles for the cup in years.      

Monday, July 16, 2012


AFL Quebec Round 2: Laval Bombers v Montreal Demons
Montréal celebrates five years of Aussie Rules this year, and the prospects for French-Canadian footy have never looked better.

After an initial three years of promising growth, the Montréal based Québec Saints slipped backward in 2011. The team withdrew from the Toronto based OAFL division 2 competition, their 9-a-side development league was reduced to just two teams and the women’s program failed to play a single stand alone game for the year. The impressive individual performances of the eight Québec players and coaches at IC11 (with both Canada and France) would offer up the only shining light in what was a disappointingly dark year. But just as footy in Montréal seemed destined to spiral down further, the four remaining committee members; Margo Legault, Neil Koch, Tim Nixon and Frenchman William Teissier drafted a bold new plan for 2012.  
Recruiting went into overdrive during the winter offseason and the committee relaunched the 9-a-side league as AFL Québec. The four team competition boasted three with official backing from AFL clubs. Under the guidance of newly arrived Matthew Payne, a Team Canada member originally from Vancouver’s impressive Wolfpack juniors program, the West Island Eagles became the first independent AFL Québec team to conduct separate training sessions and establish their own home field. The transformation of footy in Québec continued as the Montréal Angels underwent a complete rebranding, retiring the iconic royal blue Québec flag jersey they shared with the men’s team in favour of a unique purple, white and black strip they could call their own.  

Using the league’s marquee invitational event – the AFL Québec Pre-Season Cup – as a springboard for the season ahead, the league also shifted its focus from Toronto partners five hours to the west to United States affiliates to the south, namely Boston and New York. With six men’s teams, three women’s sides and close to 100 participants the Pre-Season Cup was a raging success. The resurgence in Québec footy had not gone unnoticed in the local media, several newspapers running stories on the Aussie game being played in the heart of Montréal and the West Island media adopting the Eagles as ‘their team’ with front page coverage. CBC Radio also decided to get in on the act after they caught wind of the game from the land downunder, sending a roaming reporter down to training to conduct interviews with the French-Canadian Aussie Rules converts.

2012 has been an outstanding success thus far and has seen the Angels form a close bond and exciting new tri-city rivalry with New York and Boston, Montréal players feature prominently with partner club the Ottawa Swans in the OAFL and the team reintroduce the time-honoured tradition of the footy ‘road trip’, ticking off Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Calgary and Ottawa on their list of destinations players have travelled to all in the name of fun and a game of footy.

Québec footy has its mojo back and the future is looking brighter than ever. In the coming months several young Québec-based Canadians will be pushing for selection on the national team and plans for expanding the league yet again have already begun. And while there is no disputing the mantra has, and always will be ‘Montréal is hockey’, as those thousands of hockey players twiddle their thumbs during the summer looking for a way to keep fit, the free flowing, 360 degree game of Aussie Rules that has plenty of goals, big plays and big hits might just be a match made in French-Canadian heaven.     

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Clockwise from top left: Boston Lady Demons,
Montreal Angels, High Park Lady Demons, New York Magpies.
It used to be the trash talk of every eight-year-old boy in Australia: “You kick like a girl!” But having spent the last four weeks in Canada and the U.S witnessing players like the Montréal Angel’s Lindsay Belzie blindly spin out of packs and snap goals over her shoulder, and New York’s Andrea Casillas clear the ball from half-back with laser-like precision, “you kick like a girl” can no longer be considered anything less than endearing.

And that is why the Boston Lady Demons now proudly wear “Kick like a girl, Score like a lady” emblazoned across the back of their team shirts.

Women’s footy in the east of Canada and the U.S has been bubbling along for around four years now, but May 2012 just might be the point in which women’s footy thrust itself in to the limelight, no longer an ad-hoc undercard to the men’s competition.

Boston Lady Demons: Kick Like
A Girl, Score Like A Lady.
The beginning of the massive month of female Aussie Rules started with Montréal’s “AFL Québec Pre-Season Cup”.  One of the few women’s teams that do not share its name or mascot with a men’s team, 2012 saw the Montréal Angels take another major step forward in establishing their own identity. Having previously worn the same playing strip as the Québec Saints men’s team, the Angels unveiled a new jersey and colour scheme (proudly produced by jersey supplier BIG ROOSTER FOOTY) completing the bold step of establishing themselves as a separate entity from the men’s team in nearly all respects. The Angels were joined in Montréal by the New York Magpies, Boston Lady Demons and a handful of Ottawa players from the newly established Swans women’s squad. The 9-a-side tournament was eventually won by the Angels, but both the Magpies and Lady Demons proved that they have plenty of talent coming through the ranks.

To check out footage from the Montreal tournament click here.

The following two weekends heralded the start of an exciting new chapter for women’s football in the Ontario Australian Football League. After a three team competition was established in the Toronto based competition last year, 2012 saw the league expand to six teams, including teams from Hamilton (one hour south of Toronto) and Ottawa (Five hours North-East). The impact has been huge as women’s footy becomes a regular fixture each and every week of the football season. The competition is doing so well that  the High Park Lady Demons were able to get more players to Ottawa recently than their men’s squad (who were runners-up in 2011) both teams playing at the same venue. The ensuing women’s game between High Park and Ottawa (who were helped out by a band of Montréal Angels for the day) turned out to be the main attraction. The tough 14-a-side match played on a slightly reduced sized field ended in a nail-biting finish, the Lady Demons claiming their stake as the team to beat in 2012 with a classy away win over their upstart Swanette counterparts.

Action from Philly: Boston/Montreal v New York/Balt/Ont
The massive month of women’s footy came to a close in Philadelphia where the originally planned U.S EAFL tournament between Baltimore, New York, Ontario (touring team) and the host city was enhanced by yet another female footy spectacular. With most women’s footy games consisting of 9-a-side matches, New York’s Andrea Casillas put forth the bold plan to play as close to a full squad as possible. Her idea paid off, and a 14-a-side match between New York/Baltimore/Ontario and the Boston Lady Demons/Montréal Angels was played out on a pitch 130 metres in length. The wide open spaces allowed the players to experience the full extent of the game, a mesmerising run down the wing that included two bounces, impressive pack marks and a host of highlight reel goals just a few of the crowd pleasing moments for the day.

To check out highlights from the women's Philly tournament click here.

It’s hard to believe that little over 12 months ago women’s footy matches in the region were few and far between. The growth in that time has been remarkable, and only possible due to the great deal of hard work from the people who laid the foundations in the early years. The sentiment is that when it comes to recruiting new players, women leave the men for dust. The High Park Demons a prime example boasting player numbers in the mid 20’s already. Many women’s teams are starting with only two or three players, training with the men and finding games as top up players for opposing women’s teams while they recruit. The ability to transform those few players into a 9-a-side ready unit for competition has been the cornerstone to success, and hopefully it will be the recipe for many more teams to come.

The only question a football team ever asks itself once the women’s squad is established is: “Why didn’t we do this earlier.” If you’re at a club that is without a women’s footy team, the time to recruit that first single player is now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012



It’s a competition that requires a passport and plane ticket for nearly every away game, has one team boasting a forward line that includes champion Hawthorn AFL premiership player Trent Croad and another that finetuned its campaign under the guise of Brisbane Lions triple premiership player and Brownlow medallist Jason Akermanis – welcome to AFL Asia.

The five time winners and reigning Asian champion Singapore Wombats will kick off their 2012 campaign at the end of March, playing an opening fixture against the Jakarta Bintangs in Indonesia.

 In a 2011 season that saw the dominant Wombats taste defeat on only the rarest of occasions, their Bintang rivals were able to buck the trend and solve the Wombats in two of their three encounters. Adding insult to injury, Jakarta claimed both victories by the narrowest of margins, taking the honours at home by 3 points and then again in Manilla by a solitary point.    

2011 Wombat’s coach Justin Hotton has stepped down from his position and the reins have been recently handed over to a co-coaching duo that includes two of the Wombats most respected club stalwarts; Justin Lucas and Craig Geehman. It will be a baptism of fire for the coaching pair as they try to stave off an opening round loss, the Jakarta cauldron never yielding a soft win to any visiting foe.

Both teams are considered amongst AFL Asia’s best; the Bingtangs reaching the Asian Championships final four undefeated before being eliminated in the semi-finals to Hong Kong. The Wombats maintained a perfect record throughout the entire tournament emerging the eventual champions. The two heavyweights will go head to head in Jakarta on Saturday the 31st of March.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Stephen 'Sticks' Kernahan a legend in the Carlton history books.

Before the debate begins I believe it’s important to reveal my hand to some extent. I’m a Carlton supporter, one that doesn’t hate Collingwood anywhere near as much as I should, but one that despises Essendon so much so that it overflowed to a general loathing of other sporting entities that shared those same putrid colours. Ferrari F1 and the Chicago Bulls I’m talking to you. Now - moving right along.

The Western (nee Footscray) Bulldogs have endured a somewhat barren existence as a football club. You can follow their tiny website history tab to ‘1954’ revealing their one shining (albeit  fading) moment of glory. Ah, the memories of winning a school yard argument against those dish-licker supporters over the years. “I’ll see your one flag and raise you 13, 14, 15...16” worked every time. Those were the days (thanks Big Jack). Only thing is the Doggies are a club with a long and proud history, one that should be boasting ten premierships – not one.

And this is where things get tricky.

Many fans seem to embrace two types of history when it comes to footy; whatever serves their purpose at that particular moment and that everything that falls outside of the VFL/AFL history books is moot. There’s no better example than the Bomber faithful that steadfast refuse to adhere to a clash jumper that would require them to alter their ‘sacred’ sash, one that has supposedly been in existence since the dawn of time. History reveals the fact the Essendon Football Club began with red and black stripes, not their beloved sash, and that the club has decided for whatever reason to ignore that part of their history in recent times (Heritage Round?). Without that first chapter of the Essendon history books, the rest simply would not exist.

A little over six months ago Geelong president Colin Carter wadedinto the history debate attempting to build a case for the VFA premierships won prior to 1897 to be included into the official VFL/AFL tally. It would drastically alter the landscape of the premiership standings with Essendon rising to outright first on twenty, two clear of their arch-rival Carlton. Not surprisingly the team championing the move – Geelong - would add a handy seven titles to their tally, leap-frogging quite a few on the existing table.

Is a VFL premiership won in 1897 any more valuable than the VFA trophy held aloft in 1896 in a league that consisted of basically the same teams? Was the VFL always superior to the VFA/SANFL/WAFL? Some would say these are questions without definitive answers. Do club officials that worked tirelessly so that our clubs of today survived the difficult first years and the players who where the best of the best at the time deserve recognition? The answer has to be yes. These were achievements that cannot and should not be ignored any longer.

But I’m yet to be convinced they should be added to the AFL’s official tally.

In my opinion a club’s and league’s history is not necessarily intrinsically entwined. The VFL/AFL has a set of records that cannot be altered ad-hoc for the simple premise of historical romance. Most clubs own history that existed outside of the current league, does that make it any less worthy to the club? Of course not.

The complication of “topping-up” the flag count gets even messier when considering current AFL clubs boast the ultimate prize from a range of competitions including the VFL, VFA, SANFL and Challenge Cup of yesteryear. What is the solution to pay appropriate tribute to these important achievements?

The VFL/AFL acknowledges their past and each of its premiers. Now it’s time for individual club’s to follow in the footsteps of teams like Port Adelaide and acknowledge theirs – all of it. No it won’t help the Blues skip clear of the Bombers in the AFL premiership race, but next time Sticks opens his “I AM CARLTON” speech (click here to sign up for 2012 by the way), I want him to be proud and proclaim a club that has celebrated the ultimate achievement twenty-three times (VFL/AFL, VFA and Challenge Cup), sixteen of those within the VFL/AFL. The people that paved the way for him to stand proudly at the podium representing 40,000+ members deserve nothing less.