AFL Academy launched in China
Located at a Guangzhou Sports University campus in the Guangzhou, Guangdong province, north of Hong Kong, the academy is designed to introduce athletes to Australian football and help identify and develop potential elite players who have the ability to transition into Australia and the AFL.
The two-week pilot program commenced with 27 athletes aged between 17 and 22 who are from basketball, soccer and rugby backgrounds. The academy program will be conducted annually.
AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods said the pilot academy program is designed to reflect the AFL’s intension in China in a very tangible way.
“We need to find ways to connect our game with the growing Chinese community in Australia.
“We are looking at five to ten years ahead. We need to have a long-term approach and we are in for the long haul,” he said.
The academy has received an endorsement from the Guangdong Sports Bureau following key meetings with high level Chinese Government Officials.
“Having the support of the Chinese Provincial Government will open up opportunities for future Chinese athletes,” Mr Woods said.
Former AFL player Darren Flanigan who is currently based in Hong Kong is managing the academy program, which is based on the AIS-AFL Academy. The program is tailored to give athletes an introduction to the game, the rules, skills and the physical requirements to work towards a career in the AFL. The program also includes English lessons and background in Australian culture.
Captain of the Chinese Australian football team that played in the 2011 International Cup, Zhang Hao, is assisting Darren and is poised to become the first full time Chinese AFL Development Officer.
The academy concluded with a two-day AFL Combine designed to set a starting benchmark for the first intake of Chinese academy players. Two players will be selected to attend the NAB AFL Draft Combine in Melbourne in the first week of October.
The Guangzhou Academy launch follows the announcement of the first purpose built AFL oval in Tianjin in October 2011 and an historic AFL exhibition match between the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne in Shanghai in October 2010.