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International Rules - living up to the name: Asia

  • Wednesday, October 20 2004 @ 04:02 am ACST
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International Rules Readers may be surprised to know that there is a lot of player interchange and playing of compromise/international rules between the growing number of Gaelic and Australian Rules football clubs in East Asia. The following report is not exhaustive and focuses on Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo.

The Hong Kong Dragons, reigning Asian Australian Rules champions, entered two teams in last week's Asian Gaelic Football 7's Championship which is straight Gaelic football and won the "B" Cup. Gaelic football in Asia is growing strongly on the back of this annual competition and last year had the patronage of the President of the Irish Republic, Mary McAleese. There are often Aussie footy players in the teams. It has also become tradition to play an "Australia" v "Ireland" International Rules match as curtain-raiser for the final. The Dragons are featured on the Asian Gaelic Games website.

Fergal Power of the Hong Kong GAA says: "Typically we play the Aussies (HK Dragons) about 3 times a year, but will probably increase that. The Aussies will be entering two teams in our Asian Championships. They are incidentally the current Asian Australian Rules Champions. Over the years, the Aussies won the first couple of tests, then we came back with a much faster running game, and staying unbeaten for a couple of years, but the Aussies have now started playing a similar game, and well and truly trounced us in March (although it was the day after St Pats Day). We've actually lost a few players to Aussie Rules and vice versa, but we support each other in terms of that we're similar sports and make sure to plan events / championships so that they dont clash - so there is a good degree of cooperation. We will be playing a compromise rules game as a warm up game to January's All Star Match in HK." The All Stars are the GAA's version of the All-Australian team and play the previous year's All-Stars in an annual match that in recent year's has come to be played abroad. The game in January will futher popularise Gaelic football in Hong Kong.

In Singapore there is also a very close link between Aussie Rules and Gaelic, as Stephen Keane, chairman of the Singapore Gaelic Lions explains: "We have a very close relationship between the Gaelic Lions and the Australian Football Club (the Wombats) here in Singapore. Both clubs are very strong individually and we have played several compromise games in the past, stretching back to around 98 / 99 and running through to the present day. Also, a few of our Irish players also play with the Wombats and a lot of them also try their hand at Irish football. We have always had a number of Aussies on the Gaelic team for our Asian Gaelic Games and presently have about 6 that are involved. Last year, the Gaelic Team assisted China in their endeavors to field a team in the Asian Footy tournament that was held here in Singapore with over half of the China team being made up of Singapore Gaelic Lions."

Across the sea in Tokyo the collaboration between the codes is no different. The Japan GAA fielded half the players to team up with Box Hill in the recent Narita Cup match against the Japan national Aussie Rules team the Samurais (see the Japan GAA article and the Tokyo Goannas article). Various compromise rules game have been played over the years, the most recent being St Pat's day 2004 where Gaelic teams from Tokyo and Osaka teamed up as "Japan Irish" in the main event of the day, the Ned Kelly Cup, an Aussie Rules/Gaelic (rules swap per quarter) game against the Australian "Goannas".