AFL Asia and the Thailand Tigers will continue planning for the 16th AFL Asian Championships to be held at the Harrow International School in Bangkok on 17 October, which will include changes to the format aimed primarily at local player development.

Following Monday night’s tragic bombing of Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine, AFL Asia are happy to report that everyone related to the Tigers are OK. AFL Asia and the Thailand Tigers will continue to monitor the situation over coming weeks to see if there is a long term possibility of danger, but at this stage the Asian Champs preparations continue. Any questions or concerns about safety, please visit the Smartraveller advice for Thailand or feel free to contact the hosts directly.

Changes to 2015 Asian Champs

The AFL Asia Champs Committee has announced two major changes to this year’s Champs format, in response to the recommendations made in the 2015 AFL Asia Clubs Survey, involving submissions from 18 Australian football clubs across Asia. An overview of the survey’s findings can be downloaded by clicking here.

The first change will involve a move to a two-division format, with seven teams to compete for an unchanged 16-a-side first division Asian Championships and a new 12-a-side second division Cup, which six teams will compete for. The divisional placements have been based on nominations received by Clubs.

A combined team of Cambodian and Thai local players impressed last weekend at the IndoChina Cup, defeating a team of local players from the Laos Elephants in the day's feature game.

A combined team of Cambodian and Thai local players impressed last weekend at the IndoChina Cup, defeating a team of local players from the Laos Elephants in the day’s feature game.

“The Clubs Survey clearly indicated to us that the majority of Clubs want the format of Asian Champs to change, particularly the smaller Clubs who are increasingly fielding the more inexperienced local players and are finding it difficult to compete with the more established teams. I’m hopeful that a move to two divisions will give our smaller Clubs a legitimate opportunity to taste success and help encourage the good work they are doing in their regions,” AFL Asia Interim President Grant Keys said.

In response to the growth of local players taking up the game of Aussie Rules across Asia and increasing numbers attending the Asian Champs, the second change to this year’s format will involve the addition of an all-local player feature game to be played before the first division grand final.  Nationals of all of AFL Asia’s Member Clubs will be split between South East Asia and East Asian teams, with standout local players from China, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines expected to feature heavily.

A local player clinic is also being proposed for Friday 16 October in Bangkok, the day before the Champs, if support can be found to enable sufficient participants to travel and be accommodated in Bangkok earlier. An Auskick clinic for kids will also be held on the day of the Champs.

“The Survey has shown us the majority of AFL Asia’s clubs are increasingly focusing on local player development and Auskick and see these as key AFL Asia priority areas going forward. 32% of total participants across Asia are now locals and over 1,100 kids are involved in Auskick programs run by our Clubs.  We are keen to foster this growth and see the Champs as a great platform to encourage their participation in our great game” Keys said.

Local player development in Asia is not an easy task. Local players rely heavily on the support of their Clubs to attend international tours, which require substantial fundraising efforts. Many Asian Clubs are also increasingly focusing on sending local teams to the 2017 AFL International Cup, which in previous years has required fundraising efforts upwards of $100,000.

AFL engagement

Grant Williams, AFL General Manager - Community Football Operations (left) and Peter Williams, AFL Multicultural and International Coordinator (right) meeting with AFL Asia Interim President Grant Keys recently at AFL House

Grant Williams, AFL General Manager – Community Football Operations (left) and Peter Romaniw, AFL Multicultural and International Coordinator (right) meeting with AFL Asia Interim President Grant Keys recently at AFL House

Led by AFL Asia President Darren Whitfield, AFL Asia has deepened its engagement with the AFL this year, having now held a number of positive meetings, with the Clubs Survey and support for the Asian Champs at the top of the agenda. As a result of these discussions, the AFL has agreed to supply 24 Sherrin footballs and jumpers for the South East Asia vs East Asia locals game, with support for other local player initiatives also currently being discussed.

“The AFL have indicated to us that AFL Asia Clubs are on the right track in regards to the growth of local player participation and Auskick across the region. The support that the AFL and Port Adelaide have provided South China in recent years has been terrific and with so many Chinese now playing the game in Guangzhou we know that these efforts are starting to bear fruit.

“Just two years after the formation of AFL Asia, all Clubs across the region are now speaking with one voice thanks to the efforts of our inaugural President Phil Johns, current President Darren Whitfield and others like Mark Stennett in Australia. We are now well placed to work with the AFL to continue to grow footy right across the region through the Champs and other initiatives.” Keys said.

Champs Schedule

AFL Asia and the Thailand Tigers have released the 2015 Champs schedule to Presidents, which can now also be found below. As in previous years, all teams will have the opportunity to play at least four preliminary games (2x10min halves), with the top four teams to contest semi finals in first division 2x15min halves) and a Grand Final.

Just one final will be played in second division, with the the top two teams after the preliminary games to play off in the Grand Final (2x15min halves).

As each team will play four preliminary games (meaning not everyone will play each other), AFL Asia will conduct an open and transparent draw in the coming weeks, to be streamed live. More details on the 2015 Champs draw will follow shortly.

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For more information contact: grant.keys@afl-asia.com

(Featured image: Local players from the Cambodian Eagles and Laos Elephants do battle at last weekend’s IndoChina Cup in Laos. Photo courtesy of Rob Brewer ardmawrphotography.zenfolio.com)

 

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