The official draw for the 17th Asian Championships to be held in Ho Chi Minh City on 15th October was streamed on AFL Asia facebook live from Bangkok on Saturday night, with a number of mouth watering first round match ups being thrown up.
18 teams will compete across two divisions at Champs, with a 6-team 1st Division and a 12-team 2nd Division (two pools of 6-teams each). Each team will play three preliminary games of 2×12 mins in length, before the top four in each division move onto the semi finals.
Here’s a quick look at how the draw unfolded for each team:
Hong Kong Dragons (Philippines, Malaysia, Jakarta): Quite a tough draw for the defending Champs with a massive first up game against the Philippine Eagles, who defeated the Dragons in the final of the Manila Cup in May. A 2015 Grand Final rematch against Malaysia will also be sure to test the Dragons, with their last game against top-of-the-AFL Asia table Jakarta Bintangs a potentially crucial one for both teams to ensure finals qualification should either slip up in an earlier game or two.
Jakarta Bintangs (Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong): The ‘Tangs will come to Champs on top of the AFL Asia ladder with a full head of steam after some impressive victories, including a most impressive win against the Swans at their spiritual home Vung Tau on Anzac Day. Their first game of day against traditional rivals Malaysia could make or break their day.
Malaysian Warriors (Jakarta, Hong Kong, Singapore): The 2015 Runners up have perhaps the toughest draw of all, with their opening match against Jakarta crucial to their chances of setting the day up for them. If they start behind the eight ball it certainly wont get any easier for them to qualify for the finals in their following games against HK and Singapore.
Philippine Eagles (Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam): A tough draw for this year’s Manila Cup champs with two opening games against the two biggest teams in Asia. If they can snag a win or two against their more fancied opponents we could have a classic encounter in their third game against the Swans, which may well decide either team’s finals qualification.
Singapore Wombats (Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia): The Bats will be pleased with their draw, avoiding HK and Jakarta who they have lost games to this year. They had a good win against Malaysia in August and will be looking to continue this good form in what could be a massive third game for them.
Vietnam Swans (Singapore, Jakarta, Philippines): A great draw for the home team avoiding 2015 Grand Finalists HK and Malaysia. Saying that, there will be no easy games for the Swannies who will be looking to improve on their disappointing 0-4 Champs 2015 campaign in front of their home crowd.
Bali Geckos (Vietnam B, Thailand, Lao) – Always the great unknown at Champs, the Geckos chances usually depend on how big the swell is back home at Kuta beach. If their big win against Jakarta last weekend was any indication, they should be one of the favorites in Div 2 despite their tough draw.
Lao Elephants (Thailand, Myanmar, Bali) – Last year’s Div 2 champs will be heavily tested in their round games, with their first of the day against IndoChina rivals Thailand at 7.30am crucial to their chances of making the finals and going back to back.
Myanmar Fighting Cocks (HK B, Lao, Vietnam B): A great draw for the ‘Cocks with two games against two of our new B teams. With a tough game expected against Lao, goal difference may be a factor going into the last game against Vietnam B if they are to make the finals.
Thailand Tigers (Lao, Bali, HK B) – Like their namesakes, its been a testing year for the Thaigers having lost many of their top players from their 2015 first division campaign, necessitating a drop into the second div. Despite the early start, not a bad draw for the Thais who will draw confidence from a solid recent win against Vietnam on home soil.
Vietnam B (Bali, HK B, Myanmar) – The Swannies have invested big in their local player development over the past year and their B team should provide a great opportunity for their new local players to get some great Champs experience and maybe even snare a win or two. With a few old wiley legends also threatening to come out of the woodwork for this home affair, the Swannies B’s should only get better as the day goes on.
Cambodian Eagles (Singapore B, Japan, Indonesia) – Drawing three teams playing their first Asian Champs, it is hard to judge the Eagles’ chances this year. What we do know is they have been in great form throughout the year, with their ever-improving local contingent impressing in their 4-2 AFL Asia season.
China Reds (Japan, Macau, Singapore B) – With a big contingent of exciting Chinese locals expected, there will sure to be no love loss in the Red’s first up game against Japan. After going down to the Samurai in 3 successive International Cups, the Reds bolstered by their more experienced Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Chongqing players will be rating themselves as a very good chance to notch up a win against their biggest rivals on the international stage and take out this years Div 2.
Indonesian Garudas (Macau, Singapore B, Cambodia) – A great draw for the Garudas who we welcome as the first ever all-local national team to compete at Champs. Their final game against the Cambodians at 1pm, who will also feature a large contingent of locals, will sure to be a great display of the region’s local talent and could potentially determine which team is to advance to the finals.
Japan Goannas (China, Cambodia, Macau) – After many years of absence, it is great to see Japan AFL league stalwarts the Goannas return to Asian Champs. However, they shouldn’t expect too much of a warm welcome from some of the more highly fancied Div 2 teams China and Cambodia, who will both be circling the Goannas game as a must win if they are to advance from the preliminary rounds.
Macau Lightning (Indonesia, China, Japan) – A tough draw for the Macau boys who are currently struggling for numbers following the loss of many Leighton’s contractors. This will likely be more of a barbarians team, with any other teams with excess players encouraged to help them out.
Singapore B (Cambodia, Indonesia, China) – The early 7.30am game will surely test the Bats B’s, but if they can pull it together for a good showing against the Cambodians they have a three and a half hour lay off to catch up on some sleep before they play the Garudas in what should be an entertaining young locals vs wiley old expat affair.
For all the details of the 2016 AFL Asian Championships visit www.AFL-Asia.com/asian-championships/