The AFL International Cup moved into its final stages this week, with fierce competition taking place in both the men's and women's competitions at various footy ovals across Melbourne. The 2017 tournament is the 6th International Cup to take place in Australia, with the football world descending on our shores every three years. The popularity of our great game reaches far and wide, with teams from North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific all taking part.
While no ex-pat Aussies are allowed to take part, there is no shortage of participants keen to compete with a view to taking home the championship cup in each division.
Two-time champions Papua New Guinea will be looking to defend their title from 2014, but will have to get past a solid New Zealand team that won its way into the big game with a nail-biting four point victory over dual championship winners Ireland on Tuesday. The final scoreline was New Zealand 8.5 (53) to Ireland 7.7 (49). Saint Kilda listed Barclay Miller was the hero for New Zealand with an after the siren goal to take the Kiwi’s into the Grand Final, which will be played at the MCG as a curtain raiser to the Round 22 fixture between Collingwood and Geelong on Saturday.
The Division One competition has been a tight one, with just percentage separating 2nd to 4th behind the all-conquering Kiwis who went through the preliminary round undefeated. Ireland can consider itself extremely unlucky to not be playing in the big one at the MCG as a win over New Zealand would have been enough to see them through to play the Kiwis again on Saturday. They will now have to settle for a third place playoff against the USA.
The Papua New Guinea vs New Zealand final will be the third between the two teams who previously met in the 2005 and 2008 finals, with the scoreline currently showing one win apiece. It should be a cracking contest that gives Geelong and Collingwood fans plenty of incentive to get to the MCG early on Saturday to support both teams who will leave nothing in the tank as they fight for the ultimate International Aussie Rules prize.
In the women’s draw, played in the more traditional semi-final format with the winners meeting in the final, the competition was just as fierce. Semi-Final one had the classic North American battle with the USA up against Canada. In a rugged encounter where play had to be stopped twice due to injuries to Canada’s Kirsti Oja and the USA’s Brette Bower, it was the reigning champion Canada who ran out comfortable 36 point winners, 6.8 (44) to the USA’s 1.2 ( 8 ).
The second semi-final was one for the ages with Great Britain taking on Ireland. Despite trailing at three quarter time by a goal, the Irish stormed home with two final quarter goals while keeping the Brits scoreless to run out eight point winners, 3.5 (23) to 2.3 (15).
The reward for Canada and Ireland is not only a Grand Final berth; they also get to strut their stuff on Etihad Stadium as a curtain raiser to the Carlton-Hawthorn match on Saturday night.
In the men’s second division, Germany will take on Croatia in the Grand Final at Ransford Oval on Thursday. Germany won their way into the Grand Final with a 28 point semi-final victory over China, while Croatia was too good for Japan, marching to a whopping 65 point win.
Whilst there can only be one winner from each division, the spirit shown by every team throughout the week proves every single player that comes downunder to play our great sport in a truly International competition - are all winners. There can be no greater example of how to embrace team sport than that shown by the Pakistani women’s team, who despite being thrashed in every game, and not scoring a single point for the entire tournament , still sang with gusto after each game as they celebrated with the winners.
We at AFANA wish all Grand Finalists the best of luck in their quest for glory, and congratulate every player who continues to take our beautiful game throughout the globe, making new fans every day.
Note: Special thanks to www.worldfootynews.com for match scores and schedules referred to above.
Article last changed on Thursday, August 17, 2017 - 2:32 AM EDT