There is now just a month to go until the best female footballers from outside of Australia do battle in Melbourne for the 2017 AFL International Cup.
Ahead of the August tournament, respected international Australian football website World Footy News (WFN) has released its rankings of the women’s national teams.
Under the WFN format, a national team must play a minimum of eight international matches for a formal ranking, with those under the qualifier ranked provisionally.
Although never fielding an official team in an international Australian football tournament, WFN Editor Troy Thompson explained to Girls Play Footy why Australia was given the default number one spot.
“The assumption is made if [a full strength] Australia is playing any other nation currently, that they would win fairly handily,” Thompson said.
“Even though there are no official matches in the ranking system that Australia has played, they are the number one in both men’s and women’s.”
Removing Australia from the equation, Canada is the clear standout country in women’s international footy, with not only their main national team (the Northern Lights) ranked number 2, but their development team (the Midnight Suns) also in the top five, ranked number 5.
Thompson believes their depth will make the reigning IC Champions very difficult to knock off.
“[The Northern Lights were] by far the best team at the last International Cup [in 2014],” Thompson said.
“They’re well out in front on [ranking] points at the moment of the USA … probably because they dominated some of those 49th Parallel Cup matches over the past few years as well.”
The WFN Editor warned not to discount the number 4 ranked side, the Irish Banshees, as the team they’ll field in Australia will most likely be very different from those that played in recent European tournaments.
“In the past up to half the team has been Australian based playing in Australian competitions, some of them having never actually played in Ireland.
“When they’re back in Europe, they don’t have those players because they remain in Australia, so their strength depending on when they’re playing [is affected].”
One of the teams that may move ahead of Ireland in the rankings is IC17 debutantes, the Great Britain Swans.
Just one game shy of moving from provisional to a formal ranking, the Swans are reigning European Champions after defeating the Banshees and Crusaders in the UK last year.
With their strong two-division women’s 18-a-side league in London, plus talent from Nottingham and Glasgow, it’s anticipated that Great Britain will join the USA, Ireland and Canada as the four to make it through to the Semi-Final stage.
Also confirmed for the tournament is the European Crusaders, which includes a mix of French, Swedish, Italian, Croatian, Greek, Polish and German footballers.
From the South Pacific, Fiji will be back after their solid performance in 2014, while Papua New Guinea are back after missing the last international cup.
The match-by-match schedule for the tournament is due in around one week, with the delay possibly being due to the AFL waiting for some last-minute confirmations, rumoured to be Tonga and Pakistan.
What is certain is that the tournament will begin with the first round of matches being played on Sunday, August 6 at Royal Park in Melbourne.
The second round on Wednesday, August 9 will see a range of schools across Victoria host matches, with the Ballarat Courier already confirming that Mount Clear College and St Patrick’s College will each host a match, although unclear whom the teams will be and if men’s or women’s matches.
Round 3 on Saturday, August 12 will see the return of the popular community round, where in 2014, the then St Albans Spurs, Diamond Creek and Eastern Devils hosted women’s matches.
The tournament returns to Royal Park on Tuesday, August 15 for Round 4 (possibly Semi-Finals), and also for Round 5 (non-Grand Final matches) on Friday, August 18.
2017’s International Cup finishes in style on Saturday, August 19 when two women’s teams meet in the Championship decider at Etihad Stadium, prior to the Carlton-Hawthorn AFL men’s match.