Ruling in the desert
Local Australian Football League kick off their new season this weekend
With over 15,000 Australians living in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it is no surprise that the rise in popularity of one of Australia’s most iconic sports has become a crucial part of the UAE sporting scene.
Australian Rules Football, better known as Aussie Rules, has been played in the Emirates for over 12 years and the Dubai Dingoes, created in 2006, are the region’s oldest side.
In fact, the local footy scene received a significant lift when the AFL – Australia’s Premier League – staged an exhibition match in Dubai in 2007 in an attempt to grow the game internationally.
It was the start of something special.
Joining the Dingoes and the Dubai Heat in the maiden 2007/08 season were the Abu Dhabi Falcons and Doha Kangaroos with defending champions Dubai Dragons entering the league in 2008.
The most recent side to join is the Multiplex Bulls in 2014 who will be bidding to win their maiden title this season after four successive Grand Final defeats.
The Dubai-based team tasted success in the Pre-Season Cup in Bahrain last month, beating the Dragons in the final, and hopefully their early win will serve as the entree before their main course at season’s end.
Matt Burn, the AFLME general manager, is excited about the new campaign which will run over six rounds and kicks off on Friday at The Sevens Stadium, with an eagerly awaited clash between six-time defending champions Dragons and the Bulls.
“The interest for AFL Middle East grows every year and this year is no different” said Burn.
“The feedback from all clubs is that the offseason recruitment has been the strongest for quite some time which is great.
“We are looking forward to a very competitive season with the extra addition of more games.”
This season will see three double-headers take place, which is sure to increase attendances and draw more interest to the sport in the UAE.
“AFL is not just for Australians, all clubs welcome all nationalities and skill level,” added Burn.
“Dubai Auskick also runs every Saturday at Victoria International School, Sharjah, from 08:30-10:00. The programme makes learning to play AFL fun, safe and easy for boys and girls ages 4-15-years-old. Through weekly coaching sessions they will learn the skills of the game in an exciting, social and safe environment.
“And a big thanks to our new major sponsor the Entertainer for their support.”
You can find all clubs on social media and if you need more information contact the league at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The interest for AFL grows every year and this year is no different
Dragons’ delight: The Dubai Dragons (white) celebrated their sixth Premiership title in seven seasons last term.