WILD footy in South Africa

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author), LSIS Paul McCallum (photographer)

Location(s): Cape Town, South Africa

Members of HMAS Anzac hand out Navy souvenirs to children from the local community that are engaged in the Footy Wild program, in Cape Town, South Africa. (photo: LSIS Paul McCallum)
Members of HMAS Anzac hand out Navy souvenirs to children from the local community that are engaged in the Footy Wild program, in Cape Town, South Africa.
During HMAS Anzac’s recent visit to South Africa, members of ship’s company participated in a clinic with junior AFL players in the township of Khayelitsha, just outside of Cape Town. 

Footy WILD, the brand name for AFL South Africa, has been funded by the AFL since 2005, and currently has 25,000 registered members from age seven, and a regular competition with eight senior teams from around the nation. 

AFL South Africa general manager, Mr July Machethe, described the progress that has been made since the game was first introduced in 1997. 

“South Africa is famous for rugby, but actually soccer is the nation’s most popular sport, followed by rugby and cricket. 

“AFL is making inroads, and although it will take many years, I am confident that AFL will also be a force to be reckoned with. 

“We welcomed the visit by HMAS Anzac as some of our kids had an opportunity to tour the ship, so between that and the clinic, many of the kids got to interact with Australians. 

“Opportunities like these are important for developing AFL as an international code,” Mr Machethe said. 

Anzac’s physical trainer, Leading Seaman Amy Carpenter, was pleased with the clinic, which had participants from Seaman to Lieutenant Commander working alongside players from two local teams and some ‘ring ins’ from the Australian High Commission in Pretoria. 

“We started off with drills to warm up our skills, with the local kids working side by side our crew. 

“These skills progressed to more complex drills, which many of the participants found challenging, but everyone gave it a go and had fun along the way. 

“We finished off with an informal game being made up of local representative players and Anzac crew.
"The teams were mixed groups made up of people who had only met that day, so it was all fun, and the results did not matter,” Leading Seaman Carpenter said. 

Able Seaman Benjamin Kean enjoyed the opportunity to kick the ball around in the middle of a long deployment. 

“While there are a number of sports and games we can play at sea, the clinic was a good chance to get out on to the field and kick the ball around and to get some fresh air and sunlight. 

“It was pretty cool to see the level of interest among the local players, since I never realised that AFL was played in South Africa,” Able Seaman Kean said. 

His Excellency Mr Adam McCarthy, Australia’s High Commissioner in Pretoria, also participated in the clinic. 

“Many Australians don’t realise that AFL is becoming an international sport, and the interest in South Africa is rising rapidly. 

“South Africa is third only to Australia and New Zealand in terms of numbers of players, and with the support of Australia will be a force to be reckoned in the future, 

Anzac’s participation in this clinic underlines the potential of sport to build first hand knowledge, so I hope that the local players see the enthusiasm that Australians have for AFL, and that Anzac’s crew take home their personal stories of this developing sport and their impressions of the contrasting backgrounds of the players getting into the sport in South Africa,” Mr McCarthy said. 

Anzac’s continuing NORTHERN TRIDENT deployment is focused on commemorating the Centenary of Anzac, building interoperability with allies and strengthening Australian links to international communities.