Australian rules football in Asia
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Australian rules football has been played as an organised sport in Asia since the late 1980s, with the foundation of teams in Japan based around universities in Tokyo. Before this time, only informal matches had been played in some countries, the majority involving Australian servicemen.
Since the 1980s a number of clubs have been formed in east Asia, mainly by expatriate Australians, although in Japan, China and Indonesia the majority of the playing base consists of locals.
There was no official governing body as such, although an informal association named the Asian AFL had existed between clubs for some time, with occasional discussion to formalise a regional body.
In 2013 the East Asia Australian Football league was formed with teams from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sijngapore, Jakarta and Laos competing. As well six teams compete in the South China Australian Football league with the Hong Kong Reds, Hong Kong Blues, Hong Kong Gaels, Macau, Guangzhou and Lantau supplying teams.
Previous to 2008, the only Asian league with sufficient local player numbers and organisational structure to have attended the Australian Football International Cup was Japan, although with the aid of partnerships also involving the AFL, Australian Football in India and China became rapidly organised in 2007 resulting in their debuts in the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.
The main tournament and cup competition is between Australian expat-based clubs is the annual Asian Australian Football Championships. The 2011 Asian Champs were played in Bangkok, Thailand - hosted by the Thailand Tigers for the second time. Major sponsors were Expat Property Planners and the overriding winners were the Singapore Wombats. The champs were again held in Thailand in 2012 and played in Pattaya. The winners in 2012 were the Hong Kong Dragons.
The 2013 Asian Championships were held at the Polo Club in Pattaya, Thailand on August 17, 2013, with the Hong Kong Dragons victors again.
- 1 Brunei
- 2 Cambodia
- 3 China
- 4 East Timor
- 5 Hong Kong
- 6 India
- 7 Indonesia
- 8 Japan
- 9 Laos
- 10 Macau
- 11 Malaysia
- 12 Pakistan
- 13 Philippines
- 14 Singapore
- 15 Sri Lanka
- 16 Thailand
- 17 Vietnam
- 18 Asian performance at International Cup
- 19 References
- 20 External links
Australian rules football has been played in Brunei since 1998 when a social match was held, followed by a meeting to establish the Brunei Australian Rules Football League. Anthony Rodaughan was duly appointed the League's first president.
The domestic competition soon commenced at the Jerudong International School soccer field, with a three-team competition including players from England, Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and Brunei. Late 1998/99 saw huge changes in the fledgling competition as the country began ending numerous expat contracts. Player numbers were reduced but the league took stock and continued to provide a regular competition for its members. 1999 brought the formation of the Brunei Sharks, a composite side representing the league, playing their first match against the Singapore Wombats. The Sharks' first appearance at the Asian Australian Football Championships was in 2000 in Jakarta.
Australian rules football has been played in Cambodia by members of the expatriate Australian community in Phnom Penh since around 2000, when a club nicknamed the Cambodia Crocodiles was formed. The Crocodiles hosted other teams from around the Asian region for at least one tournament, but then went into recess.
A new club, now known as the Cambodian Kangas, was under formation in 2008, hosting a four-team Indochina Cup in Phnom Penh in November of that year, but this club also did not last beyond their first tournament. In 2010, the Cambodian Cobras formed, hosting the Vietnam Swans in Phnom Penh on July 31.
The Cambodian Cobras went from strength to strength in 2011, signing a partnership with the Australian Football League club, The West Coast Eagles. The Cobras changed their name to the Cambodian Eagles and participated in their first Asian Champs in the same year.
Australian rules football has been played in China since the 1990s, and is currently played by senior clubs in Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing, with the Beijing AFL metro league beginning in 2009. There are also clubs in the special economic development zones of Hong Kong and Macau.
A representative team of mainly expatriate Australian players has represented China under the names "China Blues" or "China Reds" in competitions such as the Asian Australian Football Championships.
The first representative team composed entirely of Chinese nationals appeared at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup, competing as the China Red Demons.
Australian rules football has been played sporadically in East Timor since the country's independence in 1999 saw a large number of Australian Defence Force personnel stationed in the country, although the first lasting club wasn't formed until early 2008.
In 2001 an organisation named the Timor Lorosae Australian Futeball Associacao (TILAFA) was formed in Dili and there were plans to send a team to the Arafura Games in Darwin, although this organisation later disappeared.
In early 2006 two teachers from Kambrya College, a secondary school in the outer-eastern Melbourne suburb of Berwick, visited a partner-school in the village of Letefoho, Ermera district as part of the Friends of Ermera organisation, holding clinics in Australian rules football in addition to donating other sporting and educational materials.
In 2008, the East Timor Crocodiles team formed, making their debut at the 2008 Bali 9s tournament.
East Timor, playing as Timor-Leste participated in its first International Cup in 2011.
Hong Kong is home to one of Asia's oldest Australian rules football clubs, the Hong Kong Dragons having played their first match in 1990. Based primarily around expat Australians, the club plays frequent matches against other expat-Australian clubs in the Asian region, including other teams from mainland China. The Hong Kong Dragons have won the coveted Asian Championships title five times, in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2012 and 2013.
The next appearance of organised Australian rules in India came with the visit of Brian Dixon to Calcutta in 2006 which resulted in the formation of starter clubs in the city and a platform for the development of an Indian team for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup. The first Indian national team was drawn from players recruited by the AFL India in Kolkata, as well as Indian nationals living in Melbourne.
The success of the IPL, the Indian cricket league has renewed interest in Australian Football in the sub continent however only a small number of mostly junior leagues has been created.
It is currently played in Indonesia by clubs in Jakarta (formed in 1995), Bali (formed in 1997) and the Borneo Bears based in Balikpapan, these three clubs being mainly made up of expatriate Australians. There is also a league consisting of local villagers around the Pancawati area in West Java. The Jakarta Bintangs and Bali Geckoes regularly contest the Java-Bali Cup and participate in the Asian Australian Football Championships.
A club was under formation as of 2006 in Banda Aceh, although this project was ultimately unsuccessful.
Founded in 2003, the West Java Australian Football League (WeJAFL) has over 500 local junior and senior players in the local competition. The large number of local players makes it the Asian nation with the highest participation rate amongst locals, although an Indonesian team has not yet appeared at the Australian Football International Cup.
The Jakarta Bulldogs Australian Football Club, Established in late 2006, is an Aussie Rules Football Club made up of primarily of Under 18 year old expatriate and local students from the British International School Jakarta, although they share no affiliation with the school. The club was founded by Australian-born brothers Alf Eddy (Club Captain) and Max Eddy (Head Coach) and has played against a wide variety of local Australian Football teams such as the Pancawati Eagles, Depok Garudas, the Bandung-New Guinea AFC and the Jakarta Bintangs. Since 2006 the club has gone from strength to strength obtaining full sponsorship from ANZ Bank which allowed for the acquisition of proper uniforms of AFL standard and new footies in 2007. In 2008 Bulldogs will take part in the inaugural Junior Asian Championships, going into the competition with high expectations from all involved. A Finnish member of the club, Tuomas Anttila, was scouted to play with the Finnish national team at the 2008 International Cup, but was unable to make the journey.
The Jakarta Bintangs, Bali Geckoes and Borneo Bears formed the AFL Indonesia in 2009, with a centralised plan for further development of the sport among native Indonesians, and the long-term goal of an Indonesian side at the 2011 Australian Football International Cup, although they did not ultimately take part in that tournament.
Australian rules football in Indonesia receives regular coverage from the Jakarta Globe and is now regularly played on television via the Australia Network including live coverage of the AFL Grand Final.
Australian rules football in Japan is coordinated by the AFL Japan, with a national league based mainly in Tokyo (affiliated with the Australian Football League) but with clubs in Osaka, Nagoya and Hiroshima. Development teams from the AFL Japan regularly tour to Australia and have competed at all Australian Football International Cups to date.
The Lao Elephants were formed in Vientiane in 2007, as the first Australian Rules Football club in Laos. The team played their first international fixture against the Vietnam Swans and Thailand Tigers in November 2007 in Hanoi. The Lao Elephants impressed many by defeating archrivals Vietnam and Thailand on debut at the Asian Australian Football Championships in Singapore in September 2008.
Later, the "Phants" were victorious in the Mekong Cup held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 22 November 2008, involving the Cambodian Kangaroos, Thailand Tigers, Vietnam Swans and Lao Elephants.
The first domestic match in Laos was held in May 2009, with the Northerners (squad members based in Vientiane and Luang Prabang) defeating the Southerners (mine workers from the Sepon area) in Savannakhet.
Macau Lightning AFL club was formed in 2009 and began running Auskick Clinics at the International School of Macau. With an increasing demand for more football from the kids participating, the club started Saturday morning training which continues to grow with boys and girls aged between 4 to 13 years. In September 2010 the Macau Lightning Auskick played their first match against the Hong Kong Auskick marking the first of many future match days between both clubs. It was a small beginning for the Senior Macau Lightning Team in 2009 with only a handful of guys looking for a social kick. As word spread of AFL in Macau numbers gradually grew to a competitive squad of 30 players by May 2010. 2010 has seen the Senior Team make their International Debut with matches against Hong Kong Dragons in May, touring to Guangzhou in August and participating in the China Cup against the Hong Kong Dragons and the China Reds in early September.
On April 13, 2013, the Lightning achieved their greatest team feat thus far in the short existence defeating both the Hong Kong Blues and a combined Hong Kong team in Round 4 of the SCAFL.
Australian rules football has been played in Malaysia since the late 1980s in Kuala Lumpur, primarily by expatriate Australians living and working in the city. The club was initially known as the MARK Tigers (Malaysian Australian Rules Kelab) and the team recorded their first win in August 1994 against a team from the Royal Australian Air Force base in Butterworth, Penang. Between 1993 and 1997, the club became consistent contenders on and off the field in Asia. Games were mainly played against the RAAF in Penang, the Singapore Wombats and the Jakarta Bintangs.
The Asian economic crisis of 1998 saw many members of the Australian community in Malaysia return home, leaving the club in great difficulties. The team reformed under a new name, the Malaysian Warriors, which has continued to this day. In addition to teams visiting Malaysia, the Malaysian Warriors have toured to Cambodia to contest the "Killing Fields Cup", to Singapore for the "Changi Cup", to Jakarta, to Vietnam for the "Communist Cup", to Thailand for the "Fish Bowl Cup" and to Bali for the Adidas Bali 9s tournament.
Aussie Rules is played in Pakistan's Swat Valley, coordinated by the AFL Pakistan. The AFL Pakistan has held school tournaments and aims to send a Pakistani national team to the Australian Football International Cup in future. The AFL Pakistan is also connected with an anti-drug charity network.
The Philippine Australian Football League (PAFL) was created in 2004. The league currently runs a two-team competition in Manila. The teams, the Dingoes and the Eureka's, were originally based on the division of Victorian (Eurekas) and Non-Victorian (Dingoes) players, but with expansion that divide has not been followed. PAFL hosted the 2005 Asian Australian Football Championships, its representative side is known as the Philippine Eagles.
Australian rules football started in Singapore in April 1993, when a group from the Australian expatriate community founded the Singapore Lions (later Wombats) Australian Football Club. The Singapore Wombats play between 8-10 matches throughout each year against visiting Royal Australian Navy ships, as well as a number of tour matches against other expat-based teams from around Asia.
Australian Rules Football is not currently played in Sri Lanka. However the sport in being discussed how best to promote it in Sri Lanka when a group of AFL officials met with the country's Minister of Internal Trade & Cooperatives, Johnston Fernando in 2010.
Manel Dharmakeerthie and Milton Amarasinghe, a former Director General of Sports, are working together to develop Australian Football in Sri Lanka. Their first aim is a tournament to be held in 2011. Fernando was supportive of their plans, and has agreed to offer, "his fullest support to develop footy (in Sri Lanka)."
Several current and former AFL players were also present at the meeting, including the AFL's new International Ambassador, Brett Kirk. The players are in Sri Lanka to learn more about that country's indigenous Vadda people and their place in Sri Lankan society, in an attempt to assist Australia's own indigenous communities upon their return.
Australian rules football has been played in Thailand since the 1990s with the creation of the Thailand Tigers by Australians living in the city of Bangkok. The Tigers run a domestic social league in Bangkok, as well as competing as the Tigers in regional competition. The Tigers hosted the 2007 Asian Australian Football Championships. The Thailand Tigers, was established in the 90's and has grown strong ever since. The club plays weekly intra-club matches fighting for the inaugural 'Bob & Gerry Cup' (the club founders). Also playing in international tours including hosting the annual Anzac Day Cup and events such as Indo-China tri-nations and the Asian Cup.
The Tigers is now a tradition for expat's from Australia and beyond, extending to the Tigers netball team for the ladies, bringing everyone together regularly for sports and social events. Family, partners and children are always welcome to Tigers events.
Anzac Day Cup - Hellfire Pass
Every year for Anzac Day, the Tigers invite an international club for a special match commemorating the memory of the prisoners-of-war (POW) working on the Hellfire Pass, part of the Burma Railway, during World War II.
The day begins early with both teams attending the dawn service at Hellfire Pass, the moving tribute sets the tone for the day.
The full-time match fielding 14 on field players commences 1:30pm in the full heat of Kanchanaburi close to the Myanmar border. The match is also attended by the Quiet Lions and VIP guests of the last remaining Diggers (POW's) who attend every year for the game. At the game's end the winning team and best player are presented with their awards by 'Snowy' a tribute to mankind with a genuine Aussie personality.
The Anzac Day Cup held in Thailand is open to all public and the Thailand Tigers welcome all. Find out more at : Thailand Tigers Anzac Day Cup
Vietnam War era
Australian rules football was first played in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
A match was played in May 1966 between members of the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
A social game was organised in 1969 by Captain Bill McMahon of Croydon, Victoria, a former Melbourne Football Club and Sandringham Football Club footballer, "Diggers" vs "The Rest" which was played with Vietnamese soldiers in August at the headquarters of the Free World Military Assistance Organisation.
In 1971, Australian Force Vietnam (AFV) and 110 Signal Squadron played a match in Saigon organised by Private Conboy of Clifton Hill, Victoria a previous member of Melbourne Football Club Under 19s squad.
There was at least one contest between 110 Signal Squadron and 104 Signal Squadron in 1970, one being played at a police or army academy at the sea-side village of Vung Tau and a little later another between the Nui Dat based units of 104 Signal Squadron and 106 Field Workshops on a pretty rough ground at the Reinforcement Wing at the Dat.
Lance corporal Ian Granland of 104 Signal Squadron organised a game of Australian Football at Nui Dat in 1970. There weren’t too many grounds of a suitable size on which the game could be played, but luckily it was learned that there was one within the Task Force Area in the area of 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit.
Lance corporal Geoff Morris and Granland did a recce and located the ground. It was big enough for Australian Football and it even had posts erected but the grass literally ranged from 20 cm to 1m in height. That meant that it would have to be cut!
In the meantime Granland organised a game against 106 Field Workshops.
Next job was to locate a slasher. Word of mouth informed the two that 105 Field Battery had an old Massey Ferguson Tractor with which they used to tow their guns around, plus a slasher.
Permission to use it for mowing the ground was given. Morris became the driver and the machine was driven over to the field and he began driving it round and round. He got the grass down reasonably short but certainly not bowling green stuff however good enough. The mowing had to be done the day before the game because any earlier and the grass would have grown significantly enough to require another cut.
This was pre centre square and 50m arcs so a hand mower was used for the goal squares, centre circle and boundary.
Lance Corporal Granland umpired the game.
The players turned up in their Land Rovers and trucks. What jumpers they wore is till a mystery but it certainly wasn't 'skins v shirts'. There were players of all ages, size and shape and some bloody good footballers amongst them too. A photograph of this game would be a gem today.
104 Signal Squardron won the game. The umpire copped a bit of abuse from the opposition but that was par for the course. It was in the days of the one central umpire.
The out of bounds on the full rule had only just been introduced and of course it was applied. Some of the older heads were not too happy but recognized that it had become a law of the game. Many of the blokes who had probably been pretty fair footballers in their youth but now in their late thirties or so they were no match for youth and speed. Some of these tried to slow the youngsters down by wacking them but the umpire was on top of that.
There was no function after the match or anything, just back to the units. But, it was a good relief because obviously everyone who played etc. just loved the game.
Organised Australian rules football has been played in Vietnam since 1998 when the Saigon Saints, was formed by expatriate Australians. It was followed shortly after by new rivals the Hanoi Hawks, also established by Australian expatriates. The Saigon Saints stopped playing in 2001.
In 2003, footy was reborn in Hanoi under the Hanoi Swans banner with a tri-nations tournament against Hong Kong and Thailand. In 2007, a movement started in Saigon to get footy up again with the goal of combining with Hanoi to form a national team, the Vietnam Swans.
In July 2007, the Vietnam Swans, played together for the first time in Bangkok for the 8th Annual Asian Championships. They returned to the Asian Championships in 2008 in Singapore and have been playing ever since.
In 2009, highlights included the ANZAC Day Match against the Thailand Tigers at Hellfire Pass on the Death Burma Railway; a Black Saturday Tribute Match and Fundraiser against the Bali Geckos; a match against HMAS Darwin and the Asian Championships.
Vietnamese Community in Melbourne
A team drawn from the Melbourne Vietnamese community also competed in the Australian Football Multicultural Cup in both years of the competition's existence (2004, 2005) and has competed against touring teams from the Japan Samurai. Members of this team have expressed interest in working to develop Aussie Rules amongst local players in Vietnam, with plans to visit Hanoi for matches against the Vietnam Swans.
Players from this squad eventually formed the Elgar Park Dragons, a team mainly made up of Vietnamese-Australians affiliated with Box Hill North in the Victorian Amateur Football Association. In 2009, the Dragons became a stand-alone club under the name Southern Dragons, moving to the Southern Football League. The Dragons have since moved back to the VAFA.
A number of Vietnamese members of the Elgar Park Dragons also played for Team Asia at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.
Asian performance at International Cup
- Japan Australian Football League (JAFL) - Official Website of the Australian Football League
- Samurai offer a glimpse of Footy's future
- Indonesians aim for IC11
- 2009 Season one of consolidation in China
- Red Demons not short on Talls
- Asian Football, we have come a long way, but are we ready for the next step?
- Brunei Australian Rules Football League
- Aussie Rules International - timeline of International footy history
- Melbourne's Dragons taking the next step
- ABC Sports Factor - Aussie Rules' Global Gaze
- afl.com.au - Our Foreign Legion
- http://army.gov.au/opastute/images/gallery/20070912/index.htm Forces combine for footy Operation Astute
- W.A.F.L tour of India
- IAFC Country Report from Aussie Rules International
- West Australians to play match in Mumbai, India by Aaron Richard for World Footy News
- Kickstart to sport from Down Under by Romila Saha for the Calcutta Telegraph
- Indian footy - the 2008 International Cup, Croatian connection and Vegemite Vindaloo by Ash Nugent for worldfootynews.com, Jan 18 2007
- Jakarta Bintangs
- Bali Geckos
- Flying high in the Pancawati Cup December 31, 2004
- Jakarta Bulldogs
- AFL Indonesia launch
- Northerners defeat Sepon in first Lao Local Derby
- P00102.033 Australian War Memorial
- Malaysian Warriors
- Philippine Australian Football League
- Singapore Wombats
- "Sri Lanka". Aussie Rules International. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Nugent, Ash. "Sri Lankan MP agrees to support Australian Football". World Footy News. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Thailand Tigers
- Australian War Memorial FOR/66/0427/VN
- Australian War Memorial COM/69/0443/VN
- Australian War Memorial CUN/71/0200/VN
- World Footy News - Vietnamese to export the game back home
- Thailand Tigers
- Jakarta Bintangs
- Malaysian Warriors
- Vietnam Swans
- Aussie Rules China
- Shanghai Tigers
- Beijing Bombers
- Video of TJ Sports Channel Tianjin interview from YouTube
- Hong Kong Dragons
- Singapore Wombats