Month: February 2017

FOOTY AROUND THE WORLD: Fiji

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One of the most sport-crazed countries in the Pacific, the islands of Fiji have long lacked a presence in Aussie rules football. It’s overshadowed significantly by rugby union, the Fijian national sport, but footy has made some strong gains in recent years.

AFL matches were first televised in Fiji in 2002, and the league saw that there was potential to reach the Fijian population and help establish footy as both a spectator sport and a participation sport. By 2005, the Fiji Daily Post had beat writers covering AFL games, in addition to the much more established sports of rugby union, rugby league, and netball.

Around the same time, a group of Aussie police officers stationed near the Fijian capital of Suva helped get some local athletes involved. The Aussies founded the Fijian Australian Football Association (FAFA) that year, with the goal of keeping it as the national governing body for footy. They attempted to get a national footy team into the 2007 South Pacific Games, which were being held in Fiji, but they couldn’t qualify in time due to a lack of players and funding. The FAFA went on hiatus as they attempted to organize a local competition.

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Shortly thereafter, the Western Bulldogs became the first AFL team to actively start scouting and recruiting Fiji-born players, holding combines in the cities of Suva and Labasa. The project bore immediate fruit for the Bulldogs, recruiting two Fijian teenagers, Solomon Loki and Inoke Ratu. Both youngsters – originally budding rugby players – were picked by the Bulldogs as international scholarship players, but they were unable to get Australian visas due to the country currently enforcing sanctions against the Fijian government. (Ratu’s visa situation was eventually able to be resolved, and he played footy at the lower levels in rural Victoria.)

There were more positive developments for Fiji footy in 2008, when AFL Oceania was founded. AFL Fiji was formed the following year and quickly released a list of objectives in order to grow the sport on the islands:

  • To offer Fiji’s youth another sport whereby they may develop to their full potential
  • To thereby establish and promote Australian football, commonly known as AFL, in Fiji
  • To achieve these aims through organization of national inter-school and inter-club competitions
  • To foster participation in international AFL competitions
  • To provide assistance to AFL clubs interested in Fiji recruits

In 2010, the inaugural AFL David Rodan Cup was held. Named for the popular Fijian-born AFL player, the Rodan Cup featured a round-robin tournament among 14 different schools. By all accounts, the event was a smashing success, helping to show the sport on a large scale to Fijians for the first time.

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Shortly thereafter, the Fiji Power was formed as the national footy team, competing in December 2010 at the Under-16 Oceania Cup in Tonga. With that experience as a springboard, the Power were selected to compete at the 2011 International Cup, which was held over two weeks in both Sydney and Melbourne. The Power surprised many, winning the Division 2 championship in decisive fashion over France.

Aussie rules is growing rapidly in Fiji to this day, with specific outreach programs for kids and an increased focus on player development. It’s an exciting time for Fijian footy, and hopefully many more players will be able to pick up the sport in the near future.

FIJIANS IN THE AFL

  • Charlie Moore (played 1897-1899) – Fijian who moved to Melbourne as a kid and later played in the early years of the AFL (then the VFL). A cousin of future footy legend Roy Cazaly, Moore played in 30 career games before giving up his pro career to fight in the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, where he was killed in action in May 1901. He was the first professional footy player to die in any major war.
  • David Rodan (played 2002-2013) – Born in the town of Lami, Fiji to Tongan parents before moving to suburban Melbourne at the age of three. He showed a natural aptitude for footy as a teenager and was eventually drafted by the Richmond Tigers in 2002. He played in 65 games with the Tigers as a forward/midfielder, before moving to the Port Adelaide Power in 2007, where he kicked 86 career goals in six seasons. Rodan retired in 2013 and has since found work as an AFL umpire. He even won the Australian version of Dancing With the Stars in 2014.
  • Alipate Carlile (played 2006-2016) – A cousin of Rodan’s, Carlile hails from Lautoka, Fiji, but grew up in Wangaratta, Victoria. He played soccer and basketball for most of his childhood before beginning his Aussie rules career with the local club, the Wangaratta Rovers. A noted defender, Carlile played alongside Rodan at Port Adelaide for six seasons before retiring last year.
  • Aaron Hall (played 2012-present) – Originally from Tasmania, Hall’s mother is Fijian and his father is an Aussie. He was drafted in 2012 with the seventh overall pick, and as of last season, he has played in 69 career games with the Gold Coast Suns. His dad, Dale, briefly played for the Sydney Swans in the early 90s.
  • Nic Naitanui (played 2009-present) – A star ruckman, Naitanui has spent his entire career so far with the West Coast Eagles. His parents were of Fijian descent, but Naitanui and his siblings grew up in the Perth area. Naitanui is widely considered one of the best ruckmen in the game right now, but he will likely miss the entire 2017 AFL season due to an ACL injury.
  • Esava Ratugolea (played 2017-present) – Ratugolea, a forward, is of Fijian descent and was drafted by Geelong in 2016 with the #43 overall pick. He played under-18 footy with the Murray Bushrangers in the TAC Cup competition.
  • Wes Fellowes (played 1981-1989) – Of partial Fijian descent on his mother’s side, Fellowes was raised in Bulleen, a northeastern suburb of Melbourne. A ruckman, he played 102 career games for Collingwood, following in the footsteps of his late father, Graeme. He won Collingwood’s best and fairest award in the 1986 season.
  • Setanta Ó hAilpín (played 2005-2013) – Born in Sydney to an Irish father and a Fijian-Rotuman mother. Ó hAilpín moved to County Cork, Ireland at the age of five, and he was a star player in the All-Ireland hurling competition from 2000-2003. He took many by surprise when he moved back to Australia and decided to give footy a shot, first with Carlton (2005-2011) and then with Greater Western Sydney (2012-2013). Ó hAilpín primarily played as a full-back/ruckman and kicked 82 career goals in 88 AFL games. He also represented Ireland in the 2004 International Rules Series, a unique competition in which Gaelic footballers and AFL footballers play under a set of hybrid rules.
  • Tom Nicholls (played 2011-present) – A ruckman from rural Victoria, Nicholls was born to a Fijian mother and an Australian father. He played footy in the TAC Cup competition with the successful Sandringham Dragons team, before debuting for the Gold Coast Suns in 2011. Nicholls received an AFL Rising Star nomination early in the 2013 season, too.

 

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Emeralde

I recently had an awesome opportunity to catch a performance from Emeralde, a band fronted by two friends of mine. I saw Emeralde at Bogie’s Restaurant in Agoura Hills (roughly 45 minutes west of where I live). The band, fronted by pianist/composer Mark Gasbarro and vocalist/lyricist Margie Russomanno, features a versatile mix of contemporary pop, blues, and funk, with a large backing group.

Emeralde was founded in 2014 by Gasbarro and Russomanno, who had collaborated on numerous prior projects.

Gasbarro, a native of Pittsburgh, is an accomplished pianist, composer, and orchestrator, having worked on numerous award-winning films, including several from Pixar (you can find him on IMDB).

Meanwhile, Russomanno has released five solo albums in both pop and contemporary Christian styles; she is also a talented artist/graphic designer.

Emeralde features a wide variety of songs in their catalogue, from slower, down-tempo ballads to upbeat, funk-infused pop jams. I’ve always had a soft spot for modern pop with a retro feel to it, and if you also like that, you’ll probably enjoy Emeralde as well. They have CDs available on both iTunes and their website (www.emeralde.com), including their most recent full-length album, Wind and Shadows. As mentioned previously, Russomanno has also had a noted solo career, which includes the albums Sticks & Stones and All I Need (both of which are also on iTunes).

Both Gasbarro and Russomanno are active in the music ministry at the New Life Church of the Nazarene, located in the San Fernando Valley. You can find them at their respective websites (www.markgasbarro.com and http://www.margierussomanno.net). In addition to music, Russomanno has her featured paintings and graphic design projects featured on the site. When not working on composition projects for film, Gasbarro also keeps busy as an adjunct professor of composition at Azusa Pacific University.

FOOTY FAQs

In my original “intro to footy” blog, I covered some of the general FAQs surrounding the sport of Aussie rules football, specifically its historic origins, popularity within Australia, and some of the basic rules of the game, including the scoring system.

Today, I’d like to go over the gameplay/rules in depth, specifically for my American friends who are unfamiliar with footy and who might be interested in catching a game online or on cable TV at some point. So here we go!

  • How big is a footy oval?

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Since a footy oval is synonymous with a cricket ground, the dimensions of the field vary considerably, since cricket is one of the few sports with no universally-declared field size. Most grounds are a maximum of 185 meters long and 155 meters wide.

There are two large semicircles at both ends of the ground marking 50 meters from the goalposts (called forward-50 lines). The goal square is located in the shadow of the goalposts and is similar to a “key” region on a basketball court. The midfield region is marked by a large center square and a center circle within the square. This is where gameplay starts.

  • How long is a game?

The game is divided into four quarters of 20 minutes each. If there are stoppages in play, such as the ball going out of bounds, the time is added onto the total, just like in soccer. Other stoppage examples include when the ball is being run back into the field of play after a goal is scored.

There are breaks in between quarters, as well as halftime. The halftime is a 20 minute break, while the breaks in between quarters are six minutes long.

  • What kinds of pregame traditions are there in footy?

Just like in American football, fans will frequently tailor-make a large banner for the team to run through before the game. Often, the fans will make competitive references to their opponents or even honor veteran players who have accumulated a certain number of games.

In the past, during the AFL regular season, most matches have lower-level minor league games that are played before kickoff. These are called “curtain-raisers.”

  • How does gameplay start?

After a coin toss decides which goal each team will defend, the game starts in the center square. The umpire blows his whistle and will either toss the ball upwards (a ball-up) or bounce the ball hard on the ground so it bounces back up (a center bounce). It is at the umpire’s discretion as to which method will be used, based on weather and the condition of the ground. Two tall players, known as ruckmen, contest the ball in a manner very similar to basketball, trying to knock the ball down to their smaller teammates in the midfield and forward line.

  • After the ball is knocked down by the ruckmen, what happens?

In addition to the ruckmen, there are several midfielders from both teams surrounding the ruckmen in the center square area. These are referred to as rovers and ruck-rovers, and together with the ruckmen, they are collectively called “followers.” It is the job of these players to grab possession of the ball, handball it to a teammate (known as a disposal) or kick the ball forward to their other teammates (known as a clearance).

  • What is a mark?

A mark is when a player on the receiving end of a kick jumps up and catches the ball cleanly. From here, they can decide to dish it off via a handball or kick it to another teammate. They can also attempt to kick a goal themselves if they’re close enough, or run with it in the open field provided they bounce it every 15 meters.

If a player takes a mark, the defender cannot touch them or encroach on the space where the mark was taken. If the player takes a mark inside the forward-50 line, they have 30 seconds to take their kick unimpeded, as opposed to 10 seconds anywhere else on the field. If that time passes, the umpire will call “play on” and the defender is free to tackle you.

  • What is a spectacular mark?

Simply put, a spectacular mark is the most exciting play in footy. Frequently called a “speckie,” it occurs when a player jumps on top of another’s back in order to take the mark. While you’re not allowed to push anyone in the back, you can jump up and use your opponent for leverage while you attempt to grab the ball, essentially planting your shin on their back. It’s pretty awesome!

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  • What is a crumb/crumber?

A “crumb” or “gathering the crumbs” is when a group of players try to contest a mark (typically inside the forward-50 line) and none of them get it, leading to a mad dash for the ball. It is called this because the image of several players trying to grab the ball looks like a group of pigeons going after bread crumbs. You may frequently hear AFL commentators referring to players as being quality “crumbers.”

  • What can you do when you don’t have the ball?

All players need to contest the ball when it’s in their immediate vicinity and try to stave off their opponent, but when you don’t have the ball, you need to keep your head in the game.

In addition to playing tight defense regardless of your position, it’s a big rule of thumb to be able to shepherd. A crucial part of playing footy, shepherding is just like guarding in basketball or checking in hockey – having your teammates’ backs when they have the ball. The only catch is that you can’t shepherd if you and your opponent are less than five meters from the ball.

  • What happens after a goal or a behind is scored?

After a goal, the goal umpire will signal that the team has scored and another umpire will grab another ball and run it back to the center square so that play can be restarted with a ball-up.

If a behind is scored, one of the defenders nearest the goalposts will go behind the goalpost and kick it back into the field of play for his own team.

  • What happens after a tackle?

If a player is tackled cleanly while still possessing the ball, it’s a turnover and the opposing player who made the tackle will get a free kick. This also applies if the man being tackled does not dispose of the ball properly (with a clenched fist) or if he holds onto the ball after having prior opportunities to get rid of it (“holding the footy”). Throwing the ball is not tolerated and will also result in the opposition getting a free kick.

  • Can you kick or touch the ball directly on the ground?

Yes. If a player (typically a forward) has the ball fall in front of him within sight of the goal square, he is allowed to kick it directly along the ground, soccer-style, as long as no other players are within the vicinity.

If a player is attempting to go for the ball in the open field but is being pursued by another player, he can tap the ball forward once or twice in order to gain separation from his opponent, get a better grip on the ball, or knock it forward to a teammate.

  • What happens if you run too far with the ball?

One of the unique skills required in Aussie rules football is the running bounce – when a player running with the ball in the open field must bounce the ball every 15 meters. This rule is not enforced strictly if you’re about to be tackled, but if a unimpeded player is deemed to have run too far without bouncing, he will be whistled and the other team will be given a free kick.

  • What can defenders do? And what can’t they do?

All players are permitted to tackle the man with the ball, but defenders consist of the six players defending their forward-50 line and goal square against the opposition. These players are comprised of three halfbacks and three fullbacks, and all must attempt to stop the other team’s forwards from kicking goals.

They are all allowed to block (or smother) kicks, tackle in a legal manner, shove the ball-handler out-of-bounds, or spoil kicks by punching the ball out of the opponent’s hands when he is attempting to make a mark. Defenders can even deflect a ball that’s going through the goalposts; if they do this, the other team will only score one point (a behind) rather than six (a goal).

  • What other types of penalties are there?

Players cannot

  1. Argue with or swear at an umpire
  2. Directly prevent a player from taking a free kick or otherwise encroach on the mark
  3. Enter the field at areas other than the interchange area
  4. Make head or neck contact with your opponent while in a marking contest
  5. Attempt to trip your opponent
  6. Make high or low tackles (above the shoulders or below the knees)
  7. Shove an opponent in the back
  8. Hold onto a player’s jersey or restrict their movement by grabbing
  9. Tackle a man who does not have the ball
  10. Tackle a player who has already taken a clean mark

If you commit any of these penalties (as well as some others), you will either give away a free kick or be cited for a more severe 50-meter penalty.

  • What if there’s a jump ball?

If a group of players are trying to grab the ball and the umpire cannot determine who has possession, he will conduct a ball-up from the spot of the ball and the two teams will contest the play from there.

  • What happens when the ball goes out of bounds?

If the ball goes out of bounds, the boundary umpire will pick up the ball and, with his back to the field, throw it over his head back into play. The players will then contest the ball just like they would in any other marking contest. However, players are not allowed to deliberately push or kick the ball out of bounds, and will be penalized if they do.

  • What is an “after the siren” kick?

If the siren sounds to signify the end of the first half or of the entire game, a player can still kick a goal. For example, if a player kicks the ball to a teammate and the receiving player marks it cleanly, he is still allowed to take the kick even if time expires.

Most of the time, this kick has little consequence, but there have been several instances when a player has kicked a game-winning goal. It’s the Aussie rules equivalent of a buzzer-beater, and it’s rare enough to make any close game an instant classic.

  • Is any padding permitted?

Aussie rules is a full-contact sport, just like rugby. Soft protective headgear and light shin guards may be worn, but no other padding is allowed. Mouthguards are strongly encouraged, but not required.

  • How many substitutions are allowed?

Each team is comprised of 22 players – 18 on the field and four on the bench. Of those four bench players, three are regular substitutes and one is an injury replacement. New players can sub onto the field during stoppages of play, but they must enter at the designated interchange area or risk a penalty. In the AFL, the maximum number of exchanges is 120 per game.

  • How are in-game penalties handled? Is there a carding system?

Unlike in soccer or rugby, there is no carding system in Aussie rules, which means that players cannot be ejected for rough conduct. However, they can be reported at the umpire’s discretion.

In the AFL, the player discipline is handled in a post-match tribunal, who will issue suspensions or fines if needed. The severity of the offense is based upon video review of the incident in question, specifically determining which players were at fault and/or if the illegal contact was deliberate.

FOOTY AROUND THE WORLD: Papua New Guinea

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Despite being very close geographically, Australia and Papua New Guinea might seem like being worlds apart in culture and lifestyle. But in the realm of sports, the two countries are very similar – Papua New Guinea’s national sport is rugby league, making it one of the few countries besides Australia to favor rugby league over rugby union.

But the country is also home to a very passionate footy community, which the locals typically refer to as “AFL” or just “Rules.”

Papua New Guinea was an Aussie territory for many years, establishing partially autonomous rule shortly after World War II, but not becoming a fully independent nation until 1975. Given these historic ties, it’s not surprising that the sport of Aussie rules has a well-established history in PNG.

Footy was first played in PNG in 1944 in the city of Lae, where a number of Australian schoolteachers and military personnel were located. Lae, the second-largest city in PNG, proved to be an ideal spot for an Aussie rules community to grow over the next few decades, as the game spread to other large cities, including the capital, Port Moresby.

In the 1970s, the best Papuans were selected to play an annual game with a representative team from Queensland, the closest Australian state to PNG. In 1977, the sport was popular enough in PNG to send their national Under-17 footy team to compete in an international cup against the Victoria team. The next year, PNG’s team returned Down Under – this time to Adelaide against the South Australian team – and in 1979, PNG sent another squad to Tasmania to field a team in the Teal Cup (now known as the AFL Under-18 Championships).

Unfortunately, in the 80s, the presence of Aussie rules stagnated. Papua New Guinea was now a fully independent nation, and the country’s TV stations were much more focused on the very popular State of Origin rugby league matches between New South Wales and Queensland. Apart from the AFL Grand Final, footy games were rarely televised in PNG and many of the previous decade’s star players were aging and retiring from the sport.

Fortunately, the footy league in Cairns, Queensland took notice of the declining participation rates in PNG and helped them out, offering to play occasional matches against the PNG teams starting in 1990.

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In 1995, the PNG national footy team, the Mosquitos, got a chance to star on the international stage, competing in the Arafura Games in the Australian city of Darwin. The Arafura Games were a unique and inclusive international event, featuring numerous sports being played by multiple athletes, both able-bodied and disabled (it was discontinued in 2011 due to budget cuts).

The Mosquitos crushed the New Zealand Falcons in the Arafura Grand Final, winning by a score of 100-18 and claiming the gold medal. The major footy authorities further south in Melbourne took notice and arranged meetings with officials from the PNG Rules Football Council. Two higher-ups in the AFL, Ian Collins and Ed Biggs, traveled to PNG and were impressed with the quality of footy that they were playing.

At the 1997 Arafura Games, the Mosquitos prevailed over New Zealand again, winning by a score of 93-60. They also played games against Australian squads, including the Northern Territory representative team and a team comprised entirely of soldiers from the Australian Defence Force.

In 2000, the AFL was ready to invest in its PNG audience, officially naming Andrew Cadzow as the country’s AFL development officer in Port Moresby. The following year, AFL PNG was officially incorporated, and the sport had new life in the country. Currently, AFL PNG seeks to coordinate intrastate games, develop current footy players, and discover new talent, while supporting the game financially in PNG. AFL PNG also works to get more kids involved, either through school or after-school programs.

They’ve also developed a strategic partnership with AFL Queensland (starting in 2005), which offers some boarding school scholarships to deserving Papuan children, as well as providing easier paths for Papuan footy players looking to get their shot at the AFL.

The highest recorded attendance for any footy match in the nation’s history was in 2009, when the PNG-based Central Highlands Football Club played against the Flying Boomerangs (an Aboriginal Australian team) at Kilage Stadium, drawing 7,500 spectators.

At the moment, AFL PNG relies on a small number of donations from PNG-based banks, phone companies, and other businesses, as well as some private donations from Australian entrepreneurs. The country has also recently welcomed an Aussie rules development academy in Port Moresby and hopes to further foster the growth of footy in PNG sporting culture. The AFL’s Brisbane Lions, in particular, have taken an interest in recruiting Papuan footy players to the Lions’ development academy (formerly known as the Suncoast Lions in the NEAFL). Such players have included Amua Pirika, John Vogae, and Emmanuel Tupia.

Currently, there are nearly 2,000 registered adult players in PNG, and the sport continues to experience strong growth, even more so than soccer or rugby union. The country has the second-highest number of registered footballers outside of Australia itself. The future for footy in Papua New Guinea continues to look very bright.

PAPUA NEW GUINEANS IN THE AFL

  • Donald Barry (played 2009) – Drafted in 2009 by the Brisbane Lions as an international rookie. Only played one year in the AFL, but had a long and successful run with the Coolangatta Blues (Queensland Australian Football League) and with the Manunda Hawks in the AFL Cairns competition. Barry also played for the Mosquitos in the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.
  • James Gwilt (played 2005-2016) – Born in Melbourne to a Papuan mother and an Australian father. Played in 126 games as a defender with St Kilda from 2005-2014 before playing two seasons with the Essendon Bombers.
  • Peter Labi (played 2009) – Drafted by Carlton as an international rookie in 2009 after spending the previous year as a member of the Brisbane Lions reserves team. Also a member of the Mosquitos’ 2008 International Cup championship squad.
  • Mal Michael (played 1997-2008) – By far the most influential PNG footy player, Michael was born in Port Moresby to a Papuan mother and an Australian father. Moved to Brisbane at age three and graduated from St Peter’s Lutheran College. Ended up playing 238 career games in the AFL with Collingwood, Essendon, and Brisbane. After retiring in 2008, he has become an unofficial footy spokesman in his native country and has established the Mal Michael Foundation to help raise funds for the sport and give more Papuans a chance at the AFL.
  • Gideon Simon (played 2012) – Originally from Mount Hagen, PNG, Simon was signed as an international rookie for the Richmond Tigers in 2012 after playing with the Coburg Lions in the VFL. While he didn’t stick in the AFL competition due to a troublesome hamstring, Simon managed to catch on with Centrals-Trinity Beach in the AFL Cairns competition.
  • Brendan Beno – A full forward, Beno hails from the island of Bougainville and was a recruit for the Brisbane Lions Academy program in 2010. He had a very promising junior league career in PNG and also played for the Mosquitos in the 2011 International Cup.
  • Ben Sexton (played 1991-1996) – Born in PNG, but raised in Bendigo, Victoria. Made his debut for the Western Bulldogs in 1991 and played 39 career games there before joining Carlton in 1996 and subsequently retiring.

LEAGUES

  • Eastern Highlands Rules Football League
  • Goroka Football League
  • Kimbe Football League
  • Lae Football League
  • Mount Hagen Football League
  • Port Moresby Football League
  • Rabaul Football League

Manhattan Night (2016)

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Based on the novel by Colin Harrison, Manhattan Night follows Porter Wren (Adrien Brody), a newspaper columnist who’s not particularly excited about his future. His paper’s publishing company has been bought out by a foreign billionaire, and he’s dissatisfied with his domestic life, despite his loving wife (Jennifer Beals) and two young kids.

Porter encounters Caroline Crowley (Yvonne Strahovski) at a cocktail party one night; she is the gorgeous young widow of Simon Crowley, an enigmatic film director who died under mysterious circumstances. The seductive Caroline manages to get romantically involved with Porter, partially because she believes that he is the only one who can solve the case of her husband’s death. However, she’s hiding a dark past, and her late husband has left behind dozens of video memory cards that could point to possible clues. Caroline implores Porter to look through the video files, and most of them lead nowhere. Still, what Porter discovers or doesn’t discover could come back to hurt him, his career, and his family.

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I had modest expectations for Manhattan Night (I rented it on Redbox). I’ve long been a big fan of Strahovski’s work in both film and TV, and I think Brody and Beals are also extremely talented individuals. I had heard about the film (and the novel it was based on), but was surprised to see that the studio gave it a straight-to-DVD release at the last minute, as opposed to a theatre run.

Considering that straight-to-DVD films are normally bottom-of-the-barrel garbage, I was skeptical that a film with a solid premise and an acclaimed source novel would be given that treatment. Apparently, Manhattan Night received mixed to negative reception, so I was trying to factor that in, as well.

Manhattan Night does succeed in several different ways – the performances are solid all-around, the script is (mostly) good, and I was very interested in the storyline. There are some fairly suspenseful moments, and I felt like director Brian DeCubellis gave the film a real sense of neo-noir mystery about it. I also really enjoyed the cinematography.

However, the film is not immune to a lot of romantic thriller pitfalls. I hesitate to call Manhattan Night an “erotic thriller” because, frankly, that genre can go die in a fire. With that being said, the film does have a couple of plot twists, many of which are hit-or-miss, and the ending was anti-climactic in a lot of ways. Don’t misunderstand me – it’s not laughably bad or eye-roll-worthy, but I did feel let down at the end of the film.

I do believe that these actors did their best, and I don’t think that Manhattan Night deserved the straight-to-DVD treatment, but there were a lot of moments in this film that just didn’t work as well as they could have. And I get it – a lot of books have situations or sequences that really don’t translate to the screen as well as they could. That’s why a lot of book adaptations don’t achieve the same level of acclaim as the source material – this is universal and applies to all sorts of cinema genres.

Manhattan Night certainly has its moments, and I don’t regret seeing it at all, but this film could have done a lot more with the best-selling material it had, and some of the more emotionally weighty scenes just weren’t executed as well as they could have been.

Rating: 6/10

Directed by Brian DeCubellis

Screenplay by Brian DeCubellis

Based on the novel by Colin Harrison

Produced by Brian DeCubellis, Adrien Brody, and Steven Klinsky

Director of Photography: David Tumblety

Music: Joel Douek

Editor: Andy Keir

Starring Adrien Brody, Yvonne Strahovski, Jennifer Beals, Campbell Scott, Steven Berkhoff

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, violence and language.

FOOTY AROUND THE WORLD: New Zealand

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When you think of sports in New Zealand, your mind generally goes to rugby union. The All-Blacks, the country’s national team, are the winningest team in any sport anywhere in the world. But Australia’s Oceanic neighbor is home to a small-but-growing community of Aussie rules footballers.

Footy was introduced to New Zealand in 1868, but the majority of the original clubs were eventually pressured or convinced into switching to soccer or rugby rules. Aussie rules was not seen as a sport that had staying power among Kiwis, and the game didn’t catch on for many decades.

In the 1910s, a sizable wave of Aussie immigrants began arriving in New Zealand, particularly in Christchurch (the largest city in the South Island). In 1903, several Melbourne natives formed the New Zealand Association of Australian Football, with four clubs competing. In the larger cities of Wellington and Auckland, some other small regional leagues were formed, and the country was able to send two representatives to the Australasian Football Council in 1905. However, when World War I broke out, the Kiwi leagues dissolved and footy was largely a dead sport for the next 50 years.

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In 1974, the leagues in the aforementioned New Zealand cities began forming an organized competition again, and the sport began experiencing small-but-steady growth throughout the 70s and 80s. In 1995, the New Zealand Falcons were born as the national footy team.

In 1995, 1997, and 1999, footy-playing Kiwis were able to play at the international level for the first time, competing in the Arafura Games, a biennial multi-sport event held in the Australian city of Darwin. All three years, the Kiwis finished as runners-up to Papua New Guinea.

A couple of years later, the AFL officially incorporated their New Zealand competition and have since hosted several AFL preseason exhibition matches. In 2013, New Zealand became the first country outside of Australia to host a regular-season AFL game. The St Kilda Saints took on the Sydney Swans at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, in front of over 23,000 fans.

The New Zealand AFL currently has only 600 registered players, but there has been tremendous growth in the participation rate among schoolkids, and there are over 35,000 players nationwide as of 2016.

KIWIS IN THE AFL

  • Ben Rutten (played 2003-2014) – A noted key defender, Rutten is an Adelaide native whose mother was a Kiwi. He played in 229 career games, all with his hometown Adelaide Crows, earning All-Australian honors in 2005.
  • Paul Bower (played 2006-2012) – Defender who was drafted #20 overall by Carlton and played there for his entire AFL career. Currently plays with the Heidelberg Football Club in the Northern Football League. He is of Maori descent and sports numerous tribal tattoos reflecting his heritage.
  • Shane Savage (played 2009-present) – Born in New Zealand and moved to the Melbourne region as a kid. Was an AFL Rising Star nominee during the 2011 season and currently plays for St Kilda.
  • Jarrad Jansen (played 2014-present) – A 6’3″ midfielder who was born in New Zealand, but grew up in metropolitan Perth. Jansen was drafted by Geelong but never played for them in two seasons, getting traded to the Brisbane Lions last year, when he played in seven games.
  • Danny Dickfos (played 1996-1999) – Kiwi native who spent most of his formative years in Queensland. Played three seasons with the Brisbane Lions and one with their predecessors, the Brisbane Bears. Retired from the AFL in 2000 and returned to his old team in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL).
  • Adam Campbell (played 2006-2009) – Born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand and played rugby union as a junior before moving to Victoria, Australia at age 16. Played forward with the Fremantle Dockers, but his career was marked by injuries.
  • Trent Croad (played 1998-2010) – Born in New Zealand and emigrated to metropolitan Melbourne as a boy. Six-time All-Australian who played for Fremantle and had two separate stints at Hawthorn (1998-2001 and 2004-2010).
  • Donald Dickie (played 1997-2000) – Native Kiwi who moved to Adelaide as a kid; played wing for Port Adelaide and was a fan favorite, playing 55 career games. Currently coaches in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL).
  • Karmichael Hunt (played 2011-2014) – Auckland native who played 44 career games with the Gold Coast Suns. Father is Samoan and mother is Kiwi. Also competed in the National Rugby League with the Brisbane Broncos (2004-2009) and is currently on the Queensland Reds rugby union team.
  • Daniel McAlister (played 1997, 2001-2002) – Ethnic Maori from Taranaki Region, New Zealand. He moved to Tasmania at age 12 and played in six career games over three seasons with the Essendon Bombers.
  • Kurt Heatherley (played 2014-present) – Originally from Tauranga in the North Island of New Zealand, Heatherley relocated to Melbourne as a teenager to attend Caulfield Grammar School. Heatherley got involved with high-level footy competitions while finishing school and began drawing attention from the AFL. A key defender, he was selected by the Hawthorn Hawks in the 2014 rookie draft.
  • Brent Renouf (played 2008-2014) – Kiwi native who moved to Gold Coast as a kid and took up footy with the Southport Sharks in the Queensland Australian Football League. Played four seasons with Hawthorn and three with Port Adelaide.
  • Dustin Martin (played 2010-present) – A popular utility player for the Richmond Tigers, Martin’s father is Maori and his mother is Australian. He grew up in the rural Victorian town of Castlemaine and was the #3 overall pick by Richmond in 2009.
  • Aaron Edwards (played 2003-2014) – Edwards grew up in Melbourne as the son of a Samoan mother and a Kiwi father. He played rugby union until the age of 13. After originally being drafted by West Coast, Edwards emerged as a high-scoring forward during six seasons with the North Melbourne Kangaroos. He finished his career with Richmond.
  • Greg Broughton (played 2009-2015) – Broughton, who is of partial Maori descent, grew up in Western Australia. He played four seasons with the Fremantle Dockers before moving to the Gold Coast Suns in 2013. A midfielder, Broughton played 110 career games before retiring in 2015.
  • Wayne Schwass (played 1988-2002) – Two-time best and fairest winner with North Melbourne who also spent five years with the Sydney Swans. He is of Maori descent and emigrated with his family to Victoria at age 10. Currently works as an AFL commentator.
  • Nathan Van Berlo (played 2005-2016) – Born and raised in Perth, Western Australia to Kiwi parents. Played his entire career with the Adelaide Crows.
  • Max Gawn (played 2010-present) – Gawn was raised primarily in Melbourne, born to parents who hailed from the South Island of New Zealand. Considered one of the best ruckmen in the game, Gawn has played his entire career for the Melbourne Demons. In addition to his footy prowess, Gawn also played basketball and rugby union as a teenager.

LEAGUES

  • Auckland Australian Football League
    • Manurewa Raiders
    • North Shore Tigers
    • University of Auckland Blues
    • Mt Roskill Saints
    • Takapuna Eagles
    • Waitakere Magpies
  • Canterbury Australian Football League
    • Christchurch Bulldogs
    • Eastern Blues
    • University Cougars
    • Mid-Canterbury Eagles
  • Waikato Australian Football League
    • Tuis
    • Mavericks
    • Redbacks
  • Wellington Australian Football League
    • North City Demons
    • Hutt Valley Eagles
    • Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs
    • Wellington City Saints

AFL to Tasmania?

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The Australian Football League has a long and complicated history in Tasmania. Despite high levels of participation and strong fan support throughout the state’s communities, Tasmania has never had a team in the national Aussie rules competition.

Currently, the AFL’s Hawthorn Hawks and the North Melbourne Kangaroos both play neutral site games in Tasmania at York Park and Blundstone Arena, respectively, and have developed strong supporter bases in both Launceston and Hobart.

Tasmania has played organized footy for longer than Western Australia or South Australia, and for such a small state, there is undeniable passion for the game. Tassie boasts the second-highest participation rate in the country (after the Northern Territory). In 1924, 1947, and 1966, the state hosted the Australian National Football Carnival.

In 1994, local footy authorities collaborated with the state government to petition the AFL to add a Tasmanian team to the national competition and play home matches at the Royal Hobart Showground. The bid went unnoticed by the AFL, who repeated the all-too-common refrain that Tasmania is too small and too remote for an AFL team, while also mentioning the lack of potential corporate sponsorship.

In 2008, Tasmanian state senator Kerry O’Brien criticized the AFL’s lack of commitment to developing professional footy in Tasmania, even mentioning that soccer was close to overtaking Aussie rules as a winter sport for children (and in some towns, it already has). Former Tasmanian premier Paul Lennon was also a notable advocate for an AFL team in Hobart.

Some media commentators have made the case that a struggling Melbourne-based club could move to Tasmania full time, as opposed to starting a Tassie team from scratch. Economist Saul Eslake, a member of the Tasmanian AFL team task force, echoes that view, saying that he doubts an AFL team will be started from scratch, and that the Tasmanian situation is unlikely to change unless a Melbourne club relocates.

In 2015, the Herald-Sun, one of the main newspapers in Melbourne, conducted a poll of 14,000 AFL fans asking where the AFL should invest its expansion resources. Over 78% of respondents wanted the league to support a bid for a Tasmanian team.

In a separate section of the poll, Tasmanian fans were also surveyed. They said that they preferred Hobart’s Blundstone Arena as the home base for a permanent AFL club. The fans also said that, while they enjoy their overall experiences at local AFL games, they felt league support was lacking in terms of marketing and promotion.

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Tasmanian Football Hall of Famer and respected sports journalist Tim Lane has mentioned that he’s seen equal enthusiasm for a Tasmanian AFL bid in Melbourne than he has in Tassie. A Launceston native, Lane began his journalistic career commentating games in his hometown before moving to Melbourne in 1979.

“I’ve found that sometimes Tasmanians have this mentality that they don’t deserve an AFL team. They do deserve one,” Lane said in a July 2015 interview with the Hobart Mercury newspaper.

“That’s the feeling in the heartland of AFL. Before, it was thought Tasmania couldn’t ­financially support an AFL team, but in this day and age you can secure the corporate funding for an AFL team. If the league expands, I think Victoria would like to see it move to an area that has a rich AFL tradition.”

Legendary Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy has been another vocal proponent of a potential Tassie club, noting that the Green Bay Packers have maintained a high level of NFL success despite being in a very small city and media market.

Several Tasmanian companies have offered to make investments in recent years to help jumpstart the necessary funding, including Mars, a pet food company, and MyStateFinancial.

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Given the nationwide support for a potential club, the onus is now on AFL CEO GiIlon McLachlan to stop dragging his feet on the idea. While significantly more open-minded to the Tasmanian bid than his predecessors, McLachlan has not maintained ongoing interest in the Tasmanian question.

In 2014, McLachlan visited Hobart, urging Tasmanian supporters to unite behind a single team, but ruled out adding any further teams to the national competition for at least another decade. AFL Tasmania CEO Scott Wade now reports directly to the league headquarters in Melbourne, and there have been occasional whispers that they’re developing ideas for a permanent team in Tassie, so all is not lost for the future. Still, critics have grumbled about AFL leadership’s general reluctance to fully embrace its Tasmanian audience.

To quote the great Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber….

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Well, there might be in due time. Until then, hang in there, Tasmania.