For nearly three decades our great Australian game has been heavily promoted in the populated island nation of Japan by a passionate few. From poaching would-be future rugby and soccer stars around university campuses to luring Australians from de-centralized areas with the promise of free beer, the Japan Goannas squad is a microcosm of the hard work that now sees a healthy national competition with multiple entrenched clubs in Tokyo and other far-reaching areas.
Our team showcases an array of converts who have fallen in love with our game and made it their own. With Japanese-born players as well as players originally from Canada, Ireland and Singapore joining the Australian ex-pats in Japan, we’ll be aiming to bring a truly international flavor to a regional competition.
Historically, the Goannas have been a sporadic participator at the Champs with logistics and travel a constant barrier. Our first attempt was in 2005 when we made it to the semi-final after a famous (and contentious) 2-point win over the Bali Geckos. Since then we’ve not had much joy with our last attempt in 2013 ending with 4 straight losses and a Luke Jericho signature.
2016 sees the Japan Goannas competing in the new tier 2 group and there is a quiet confidence within. Veterans like Matt Gale (ex-Woodville West-Torrens forward) and Travis Wilson (JAFL games record holder with over 150 caps) return with plenty of new faces who are set to surprise. In particular, watch out for Yuki Akita (our resident Razor Ray) and Owen “Bootsma” Kearney (he’s a pilot – don’t worry you’ll hear about it).
Dressed in our customary red and white colors, the players are primed and pumped. Our preparation has been meticulous and we’ve been slowly weaning ourselves off sushi to begin accustoming ourselves to pho and spring rolls.
Captained by Yosuke Kuno (4x rep Japan Samurais national team), and coached by Gordon Jones (2015 premiership coach and JAFL MVP), this scaly team will be hoping to drink 333 from the premiership cup in Ho Chi Minh this October!
A view from above: After a 3 year hiatus, its just great to have the Goannas back at Champs! This tour may signal a new era of cooperation between AFL Asia and AFL Japan, with the rest of Asia keen to learn from their many years of experience of successfully developing local players and see more tours to and from Japan in the future. The Goannas are the Japanese “Top League’s” most successful team and 5 rounds into the 2016 season find themselves on top of the ladder once again, so we can expect a game hardened and well drilled team that will be confident of reaching the final four at the end of the day.