A Not-so Hare-Brained Idea for an Aussie Rules World Cup (or is it?)

The Asian Cup is upon us, and I have to fess up that every time one of these tournaments come around, I get a wee bit envious. I mean, Soccer’s a great game, alright, but imagine if it was Aussies Rules played in the world cup?

Imagine if Aussie Rules was the world game and every four years the code’s best 32 countries converged with their take on it? It’d be a wonderful melting pot, wouldn’t it? 32 nations bringing their exotica and spices; 32 nations bringing new horizons for footy just as they do for soccer.

Alas, that’s all fanciful, isn’t it? as our game is unlikely to grow to that degree. Indeed, it’d be a triumph for Aussie rules to even become a minority sport overseas as opposed to one that is played here and there by ex-pats. That granted, what if there was then an alternate way to make it international? What if there was a left field way for Aussie Rules to instantly win hearts and minds of patriotic sports fans all over the globe? Well, crazily enough, I venture there is.

Today, just as its always been, Australian Rules is played by a great many multi-cultural types. Even just a cursory glance of AFL lists reveals surnames with lineages to over a dozen nationalities. In my team – Footscray – we alone have a multitude: there’s the Germanic Dalhaus, the East European Hrovat and the South African-born Johannisen. From the British Isles, there’s the Irish Murphy, the Scottish McCrae and the Timor Leste/Taiwanese Lin Jong.

And what about all the Italians: Bontompelli, Liberatore, Talia and Crameri. Further, there would be ancestries to other nationalities on players mothers side, as customarily, surnames are, of course, from a fathers (as there would also be from grandparents). So just in this microcosm, we can see that AFL footballers have ancestral links to more than just our colonial settlers. Now what I’m thinking is why not tap into this heritage to market the game? Why not have an Aussie Rules world cup every four years pooling players from their county of origin?

Imagine it: Aussie rules World Cup – an eight team knock out tournament played from mid October in the year of the World Cup.

I see the teams being named Anglo-Australians, Italian-Australians, Greek-Australians, Irish-Australians, Scottish-Australians, German-Australians, Croatian-Australians and most tantalizingly, Indigenous-Australians (Note: these teams seem the most likely to me, as these nationalities are the most predominant in the AFL. But I expect, like the Big Bash, there would be a tender process to form the franchises, and should a consortium want to form a team for a nationality I’ve not covered, they would be given an opportunity to outbid the likelier ones.)

The thing that really leaps out at me is that overseas countries would instantaneously invest emotion in our game. Picture an Italian sports nut, for instance. He’s channel surfing through a myriad of cable channels when he stumbles upon an Aussie Rules game with Italian flags in the stands. The game is a knock out semi final of the 2018 Aussie Rules world cup and Tom Liberatore from the Italian-Australians has just lain a bone crunching tackle on Luke Dalhaus from the German-Australians. The ball spills out to Stewart Crameri and he slams through a long bomb from 50 out. Lygon St erupts behind the goal, as does half of Fremantle in the stands. and a maelstrom of Italian and Australian flags are frenetically unleashed by the formation’s cheer squad. Now, I ask you, did Australian Rules just win over an Italian patriot or did it not?

Further, how much more would the overseas TV rights be worth after an event like this? Up to now, the overseas rights have brought in peanuts, but with a product like this, we could approach countries represented in the tournament with real clout. Should the tournament then go on to be a success, and Aussie rules converts countless patriots, would that then translate in higher rights for the regular season? Gee, you’d expect so, wouldn’t you?

On the formation of the teams, as I touched upon earlier, I see it working like the Big Bash. The AFL would field tenders from consortiums looking to form teams. The eight highest bidders would then win licenses and would go on to recruit players based on there ancestry. As the majority of players have mixed backgrounds, you’d think it would be best left to them to decide which way their hearts lye. As for player contracts with AFL clubs, well I expect going forward contracts would be drawn up so that players are released from their clubs in this window every four years. Hardly a disruption, I put forward, and even more so in that the tournament would take place in late October.

Further on the formation of the teams, so as to adapt to an ever changing multi-cultural society, I see the tender process taking place for each tournament. This would allow consortiums which missed out on forming teams for the previous tournament a chance to outbid rivals. On the other hand, maybe we allow as many teams as consortiums want and have multiple divisions with promotions and relegations?

Lastly, on the formation of teams, I suggest one requisite: there has to be an Indigenous-Australian team! No out-bidding here. Franklin, Wingard, Rioli etc representing our first Australians? Wow. It’d have to have more going for it than the Indigenous All-Star game (and how incredible would the game against the Anglo-Australians be?)

As a Slovenian-Australian myself, and one with German ancestry as well, I would love nothing more than to express my European background at one of these games. I see myself being as immersed in the action as much as I am watching my Dogs. And on the teams being named in this hybrid way, I can’t think of anything more symmetrical. For me, a proud Slovenian-Australian, my heart belongs to two countries. To have them both represented as one team seems like a perfect synthesis of my and Australia’s multiculturalism.

Footnote: I pray that Gary Ablett can somehow trace his ancestry back to my Dad’s home town Ljubljana!

About Punxsutawney Pete

Punxsutawney Pete see's a shadow: twelve more months of winter


  1. Hello Peter

    After successful International Cups in 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014 footy is on the world map, as it is through the big tournaments such as the Euro Cup and the US Nationals.
    Australian Football – which is the name of the game, as in the laws of Australian Football, the Australian Football Hall of Fame, the Australian Football League – has an international presence even if on a small scale.
    That international story is told regularly on worldfootynews.com.
    See also the international links on afl.com.au.
    On the multicultural story at home, the AFL has run multicultural cups, while as we know the media have created ethnic teams of the century.
    While the best game in the world should be a big international force, when it emanates from a small country at the foot of the world, that is not going to happen overnight, despite visionaries like Barassi, Sheedy (and moi) who have long advocated an international element as essential in a global world.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    I approached this article very dubiously. An Aussie Rules World Cup?? But I like it and think it could work. Would have far more interest in watching this than watching the hybrid ‘International Rules’ game which is nowhere near as good to watch as Australian Rules or Gaelic Football. If the AFL and Players Association still are keen for some type of representative footy, this must surely be an option.

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