There aren’t not too many hours until the launch of the 2017 AFL International Cup, with the last few countries now arriving and settling into their hotels.
One of the teams just arriving is Pakistan, which will not only be making its debut in the women’s division, but also taking a great stride forward for women’s footy in the sub-continent.
The other country that’s just arrived is the United States of America. Since their debut tour of Australia in 2009, the USA women have also been keen to test themselves against other nations, so much so that they’ve brought along two teams: the Freedom (IC17 team) and the Liberty (development tour team).
For the trivia buffs, this will be the first tournament the USA women have played in Australia without Barrack Obama being their country’s President.
However, the most important piece of history the team is looking to change in the next fortnight is their placing in the International Cup. After two third-place finishes, they are determined to take their game to another level and play-off in the Grand Final at Etihad Stadium.
An International Cup veteran, USA Freedom captain Hallie Kastanek (nee Lee) believes her country’s selectors have chosen a strong squad to take it up to the Irish and Canadians.
“This team is by far the most athletic and skilled team we have brought to date to the International Cup,” Kastanek told the USAFL’s Brian Barrish.
“If we can bond better than any previous year’s teams and synchronize for our common goal, I have the utmost confidence we will play at Etihad.”
The commitment of women playing Aussie rules in the United States cannot be denied, with new teams popping up in Washington State, California, Minnesota and Texas, and a changing of the guard at last year’s national when San Francisco broke through for their maiden division one title.
One of those San Francisco footballers the USA captain had praise for was defender Bevin English, who’ll be making her debut for the Freedom at the tournament.
“I am coming to the conclusion that she may be just the greatest human being on the planet. Her knowledge, athleticism, and code in this team sport is right on point.”
Another footballer making her International Cup debut is Katie Klatt. The Sacramento Suns footballer, who played an exhibition match with the GWS Giants then packed her bags and moved to Melbourne, is one player that is expected to dominate over the next fortnight.
After spending a summer with the Victorian Women’s Football Academy, and getting a few VFL Women’s games under her belt at Melbourne University, Klatt should catch the AFLW recruiters’ eyes, and her captain is looking forward to being alongside her in the red, white and blue.
“The USA Freedom player I am most excited to play with has to be Katie Klatt.
“It is just obvious. She has uprooted her life for this is sport, and I admire her for it.
“Her presence on the field is unmatched.”
The Freedom will face one of their toughest tests immediately, when they meet the Irish Banshees at 2pm on Sunday at Royal Park.
A win would be a huge morale boost that could carry them right through the tournament, but a loss first up puts them on the slippery slope.
Coach: Leigh Barnes
Captain: Hallie Kastanek
Squad: Alison Bremner, Jessica Estrada, Brette Brower, Catherine Georgiadis, Bevin English, Jessica Gray, Carly Smolak, Jessica Blecher, Catherine Hoha, Katie Klatt, Andrea Casillas, Katrina Scherer, Kim Hemenway, Elizabeth Danielson, Margaret Leone, Lauren Shelton, Karen Stabelin, Natalie Wolff, Oahn Nguyen, Paige Kiecker, Hallie Kastanek, Rosemary Kloh, Sara Magallon, Melissa Armstrong, Siobhan McHale, Emily Riehl, Lindsey Kastanek, Robyn Leslie
Fixture [Pool B]
Round 1: vs Irish Banshees – Sunday, August 6, 2:00pm at Ransford Oval, Royal Park
Round 2: vs PNG Flames – Wednesday, August 9, 10:45am, at Wesley College, Glen Waverley
Round 3: vs European Crusaders – Sunday, August 13, 12:00pm at Main Oval, Melbourne Uni
They are without doubt the greatest mystery of the AFL International Cup. Where did this team come from – Pakistan, obviously – and what can we expect of them?
If it hasn’t shocked you already that there is a team from Pakistan, then you may be surprised to hear they have a thriving local women’s competition, as Secretary General of the Pakistan Football League Tayyab Chattha told Girls Play Footy.
“At the moment, we have four female teams; they are from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi,” Chattha said.
“We have around 70 to 100 girls that are playing, under different ages.”
Despite all being new to the game, the Pakistan squad contain a number who’ve crossed over from other sports, just to have the chance to represent their country.
“Mostly they have played soccer.
“They are very good players, and I convinced them, and showed them this game is very enjoyable.
“They said [after a while] this game is better than soccer, because in Aussie Rules the fitness is very strong.”
Although most are not predicting Pakistan to trouble the more established nations for a semi-finals spot, Chattha is looking towards the bigger picture.
“After participating in the International Cup, I’m pretty much sure that in Pakistan, the Aussie rules will grow very [quickly].”
Coach: Imran Ilyas
Captain: Myra Ahmed
Squad: Haider Abiha, Khan Asma, Fatima Misbah, Ali Karishma, Bano Saliha, Arooj Hina, Ul Nisa Noor, Kamal Sonum, Mushtaq Chaman, Eraj, Arif Imama, Murtaza Awan Memoona, Myra Ahmad, Khan Shandana, Sawera, Majeed Samina, Amir Ghazla, Batool Farzana, Saed Assabooh, Habib Asmra, Mumtaz Salma, Bibi Fasia, Masoud Labia, Ammara Raja, Faeza Javaid, Quratulain Aali, Hina Khalid
Fixture [Pool A]
Round 1: vs GB Swans – Sunday, August 6, 8:45am at Ransford Oval, Royal Park
Round 2: vs Canada Northern Lights – Wednesday, August 9, 10:45am, at St Francis Xavier College, Officer
Round 3: vs Fiji – Sunday, August 13, 12:00pm at Mulgrave Reserve, Wheelers Hill
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