If you thought that the AFL Asia 2019 calendar of events was massive, well look out as the 2020 season is going to be an absolute monster year, with more football games, tours, tournaments, local leagues and events spread right throughout an extremely busy and jam-packed 12 months!

Tournaments and games have already been played in India, Jakarta, Japan and Bali during January and February and once we hit March there’s barely a weekend without a scheduled game being played somewhere within the region.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what’s happening within AFL Asia footy circles in 2020…

The Phuket Masters will be held on Saturday March 7th and is one of the highlights of the season for AFL Asia’s finest elder statesman. The annual Phuket Masters, hosted by the Thailand Tigers is entering its second year and will feature 9 teams, with the newly formed Phuket Power set to make their debut on home soil.

The spirit of Anzac Day runs deep within the region whereby many heroic battlefields are literally in our backyard. The sound of the bugle playing the Last Post, dawn services commemorating those that served and died for our great country and Anzac Day football are synonymous to Australians and is no different to those of us living in Asia.

Anzac Day happens to fall on a Saturday for the first time since 2015 and will see the Malaysian Warriors take on the Hong Kong Dragons at home, the Vietnam Swans & Lady Swans play hosts to the Singapore Wombats & Wombettes in Vung Tau, the Thailand Tigers will take on Indochina rivals the Cambodian Eagles in Kanchanburi, whilst the Osaka Dingoes will host their 4th annual tournament in Japan.

The 2020 AFL Asia Indochina Cup is going to hosted by the Laos Elephants on Saturday May 23rd and will be the first time the Elephants have hosted the Indochina Cup since 2015. The AFL Asia Indochina Cup features those countries and teams for that matter that share the borders in between Indonesia and China, which include the Cambodian Eagles & Apsaras, Laos Elephants, Myanmar Shwe Chinthes, Thailand Tigers and the Vietnam Swans & Lady Swans.

Word on the street is that the hosting Elephants are preparing a Women’s team, which would certainly rejuvenate the proud club after struggling for numbers in recent years.

The last weekend in May has the AFL Round 11 clash between Port Adelaide and St. Kilda in Shanghai pencilled into the calendar. There has been a certain level of uncertainty as to whether the 4th annual AFL game for premiership points and the AFL Asia Shanghai Cup will go ahead or not, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

At this point in time as our article is being published, planning for the weekend in Shanghai is still going ahead, with the AFL working with all of the key government authorities on a daily basis. An official announcement is expected in the following weeks.

The ‘June Long Weekend’ (June 6-8) as its known in Australia has a huge relevance within the region, as Masters teams from all over Australia and Asia make the trek to Bali for the ever-growing Bali Masters. The Bali Masters was first played back in 2005, which included the Bali Geckos as the host team, the Singapore Wombats and Batemans Bay, who have played every year since under the banner of the South Coast Buccaneers. The Bali Masters has grown at a phenomenal rate as Greg Hinchliffe (Tournament Director) and the Bali Geckos have built the reputation of the tournament as outstanding hosts.

It has to be said that the Bali Masters three-day tournament would have to be the biggest AFL tournament staged in the World! In 2019, a staggering 47 teams participated in it, including 22 teams in the Over 35’s Division, 18 teams in the Over 47’s Division, 5 teams in the Over 55’s Division, as well as 2 women’s teams. With registrations closing on March 1st, the Bali Geckos are expecting over 50 teams to get amongst the action in the popular tourist destination in 2020, which is absolutely amazing!

Whilst we’re on the Bali Masters, AFL Asia newest women’s team, the Bali Pink Geckos will be hosting their first ever Bali 9’s AFLW Tournament on Saturday October 10th, which has an open invitation for AFLW teams based within Asia and outside of Asia. It’ll be fascinating to see how this annual tournament develops over the next few years.

The AFL International Cup is played every 3 years and will be held outside of Melbourne for the first time since 2011, with it to be held on the Sunshine Coast from Saturday July 25th through to Saturday August 8th. This year’s tournament effectively known as “IC20” will see all games played at the same venue (Maroochydore Multisports Complex), however at this point in time it is difficult to suggest which teams from within Asia will be representing their countries.

The AFL International Cup was first held in 2002 and has had a reasonably strong Asian flavour ever since with the Japan Samurais participating in every AFL International Cup (2002, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 & 2017), the China Dragons and the India Bombers have been a regular feature (2008, 2011, 2014 & 2017), whilst the Indonesian Garudas (2014 & 2017), Pakistan Dragons (Men’s 2014 & 2017), Pakistan Shaheens (2017) and the Sri Lankan Lions (2017) are relative newcomers, whilst the Timor-Leste Crocs made their sole appearance in 2011.

The highlight of the AFL Asia calendar of events is our showcase event – The AFL Asia 2020 Asian Championships, which will be held on Saturday August 29th at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, Pattaya, Thailand. It’ll be the ninth occasion that the Thailand Tigers have hosted the annual event and the fourth time that it has been held at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club. Given the growth of the ‘Asian Champs’ over the years, its one of the only venues in Asia capable of having a sufficient amount of space for three ovals, with a fourth oval also available if needed.

In 2019, AFL Asia introduced 3 men’s divisions, which were won by the PNG Muruks (Division 1), the Vietnam Swans (Division 2) and the Japan Goannas (Division 3), whilst the Malaysian Warrior Women’s took out the 2nd edition of the AFLW Asian Champs. Over 550 players participated in the tournament, with local Asian-born players making up a very healthy 27% of the total participants. Given that the IC20 is being played a few weeks earlier, it’ll be interesting to see whether we can topple the amount of teams who participated in 2019, which was 24 teams.

Men’s and women’s double header games are on the rise again this season with these tours really galvanizing individual clubs and adding another dimension to their club cultures. There’s plenty of double headers planned, including the following fixtures; Bali Geckos/Pink Geckos vs. Thailand Tigers (February 8th), Bali Geckos/Pink Geckos vs. Singapore Wombats/Wombettes (March 28th), Vietnam Swans/Lady Swans vs. Singapore Wombats/Wombettes (Anzac Day), Singapore Wombats/Wombettes vs. Malaysia Warriors/Warrior Women’s (Changi Cup on May 16th & June 27th), Hong Kong Dragons vs. Singapore Wombats/Wombettes (June 9th), Malaysia Warriors/Warrior Women’s vs. Vietnam Swans/Lady Swans and Cambodian Eagles/Apsaras vs. Thailand Tigers (both games on August 8th).

A number of clubs/leagues have structured local leagues with the AFL Japan A League having a 10 round season, plus 2 finals. The Guangdong AFL are yet to release their season of fixtures, with last season finishing up late in December. The SCAFL which involves teams from Hong Kong and the Guangdong Province has been scaled back somewhat compared to previous years. The Cambodian Eagles and Apsaras are travelling less this season as they focus their energies on the 7 mixed gender internal AFLX tournaments they have planned, whilst the Philippine AFL, Jakarta Bintangs and the Vietnam Swans all have internal leagues and/or simulated matches on a regular basis.

It’s fascinating to see that the Indonesian Volcanoes will be the first AFL Asia-based team to tour Sri Lanka and will come up against the Sri Lankan Lions on Saturday May 23rd. We hope that this is the beginning of Sri Lanka becoming more regularly involved in AFL Asia footy circles moving forward.

It’s going to be a gigantic season of footy and AFL Asia would like to wish you and your team all the very best throughout the year!