Australian football to debut at Commonwealth Games
Get ready to see drop punts and high-flying speckies on the world stage – Australian football has been added to the Commonwealth Games program.
The sport is set to debut at the multi-sport event in Birmingham in 2022, with Canada a good chance for a gold medal.
Australia will not debut in the tournament until the 2030 Commonwealth Games where it is likely they will field amateur sides.
The Canadian national women’s team – the Northern Lights – will likely face familiar teams from the Pacific, but with the Great Britain Swans divided between England, Scotland and Wales, and only Northern Irish players eligible from Ireland, the Canadian women would be favourites to win the inaugural gold medal.
“It’s such an exciting opportunity to play for your country,” Northern Lights player April Fullingham said.
“Playing in the AFL International Cup has been amazing, but to play in a such a prominent tournament that will be live on Canadian televisions will be incredible.
“Hopefully we can win the gold in front of the whole country.”
The Canadian national men’s team – the Northwind – will contest the inaugural men’s division, with Pacific powerhouses New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Nauru likely to provide tough competition.
“There are a lot of good teams in the Commonwealth, but we like our chances,” Northwind player Mark Ball said.
“We beat Great Britain and Fiji in the International Cup, and we pushed Nauru.
“We would be disappointed if we didn’t make the podium at the Commonwealth Games.”
The multi-sport event will get its first taste of Australian football as it is played as a demonstration sport at the 2018 edition of the event on the Gold Coast, Australia, from April 4.
Australian football has grown internationally in recent years, played in some form in more than 50 nations around the world.
“There are more than 1.4 million players in Australia, and a further 130,000 outside of Australia – the majority of whom play in Commonwealth countries,” Australian Football League spokesperson Justine Kickett said.
“Combined there are more than 1.5 million players in Commonwealth countries.
“Introducing Australian football to the program just makes sense.”