Contributed by: Brett Northey Sunday, October 22 2006 @ 12:28 am ACST
In a sudden burst of enthusiasm for the international growth of Aussie Rules both Geelong and Port Adelaide's coaches have spoken positively about the sport getting a foothold outside of Australia. Mark "Bomber" Thompson, coach of the Cats, speaking ahead of his club's match in London against Port, singled out China as a highly desirable market to push into, speculating that his club may play there next year (presumably against Melbourne). There's also an online poll WFN readers may be interested in answering.
In a story on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's website, Thompson said "We think we've got a great game and as long as we get people aware of our code of football, maybe they can watch on television and we can develop a real interest from all over the world" and "We would like to play in America more, in Europe and in China. There's a game talked about with us participating in China next year so we'd love to be involved in all those sorts of things". With the Melbourne Football Club supporting Chinese footy[*1] it seems two of the game's oldest clubs may be first into its newest market.
Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams: "If people have an open mind, they'll see the skills and the athleticism of the players. And at the same time, for our people to travel and be part of the big wide world, it's just a great opportunity". He embraced playing more exhibition matches outside of Australia, a pleasing comment given Port travelled light to London which had raised concerns they may feel the match was more trouble to them than it is worth.
Another pleasing aspect of the report was that the upcoming match between the expat-based Beijing Bombers and the Tianjin all-Chinese side was given a mention. The ABC is also running a poll on whether the AFL should attempt to expand into Asia. WFN has often bemoaned the lack of support amongst the average Australian footy fan for taking the game overseas, and we've suggested this makes it difficult for the AFL to justify or promote spending on such initiatives. This is demonstrated by the ABC poll which at time of writing has two thirds of respondents against any such move.
ABC story: Cats want Rules push into China[*2]
Visit the main ABC Sport page[*3] to see the current AFL into Asia poll (update: unfortunately the poll closed within a few hours and the result remained strongly against AFL promotion in Asia)
While there Australian Football fans may be interested in downloading some of ABC Radio calls of great AFL/VFL grand finals from the past: Great Grand Finals[*4]