The rise of local footy across Asia was on display in a massive first round of games at the 2017 AFL International Cup, headlined by a sensational 1-point victory to Team China over AFL Europe heavyweights the Croatian Knights.

It was a day to remember for Asia’s national footy teams in their first of 5 games over the next two weeks, on what was a typically cold and blustery Melbourne day.

Victories to Indonesia, China and Japan has set up an enthralling final two round games and demonstrated to the footy world that Asia has well and truly arrived on the world football scene, with great improvement seen across all teams.

Indonesia Garudas 7.7 – 49 def Sri Lanka Lions 3.2 – 20

With the dew still very much on the Royal Park Western Oval, the Indonesia Garudas started the day in great form against International Cup debutantes the Sri Lankan Lions, with a dominant 29 point victory.

Garudas captain Timbul Santoso led the Garudas strongly all day against the taller and bigger bodied Lions, finishing the day with 3 goals. Michael Latupeirissa was also very impressive on the half back line repelling the Lions’ attacks all day, while ruckman Markus Ria dominated at the centre bounce and around the ground.

The Sri Lankan team, in what was their first ever game at the AFL International Cup, with many of the players playing their first ever game of footy, will be very pleased with their effort and improved with every quarter. The Lions opened their account in the second quarter and then with the game largely out of reach at the third, they continued to pour on the pressure and posted two goals in the last to win the quarter and many fans in the process.

For a team largely consisting of rugby players from Colombo supplemented by a few more experienced players from Melbourne’s Sri Lankan community, it was a great start to their football history and they will only continue to improve and provide a real test for the other teams in their pool.

Pakistan 0.3 3 def by Germany 11.5 71

As the rain came down a very well organised and immaculately kitted out German team gave an inexperienced Pakistan team a lesson in the next game. In what was a huge effort for the Pakistanis to even pull a team together to play at International Cup, the superior height, strength and skills of the German team made it difficult for the Pakistanis in the difficult conditions. J. Huesken and P. Evermann both kicked three for the Germans, while N. Najafi, Z. Hussain were the best for the Pakistani’s. The German beer distributor in his tap-and-keg-on-wheels set up on the sidelines was a big highlight.

China 7.3 45 def Croatia 6.8 44

If there were any questions as to how Port Adelaide recruit Chen Shaoliang’s knee would perform after a lengthy spell on the injured list, they were quickly erased after the former Guangzhou Scorpion star booted the first two goals of the game, stunning the much vaunted Croatian team who according to AFL Europe were the Division 2 favorites.

The frustrated Croatian players tried in vain to intimidate their much smaller opposition, with their big ruckman given a yellow card and 12 minutes on the sideline after a round house right punch to the midsection of a Chinese player barely half his weight.

With some ferocious tackling, the Croatians fought their way back from four goals down to get within one point just after 3/4 time. In what was an enthralling last quarter of footy, both teams would go goal for goal right down to the wire, the Chinese boys hanging on in an epic game to win by 1 point.

It will be a effort for the China coaches to keep a lid on things this early in the tournament, with tears of joy and unbridled excitement seen on many of the Chinese players in a memorable come-back game for their much loved star player. Chen was exceptional all over the ground and looked in great shape, as did many of his ever-improving teammates, who chaired him off the ground after the game. Scorpions players Chen Shukai and Huang Jianglong also very good around the ground.

Japan 13.8 86 to India 2.2 14

The well drilled and prepared Japanese Samurais were also very impressive in their first round game against a much less experienced Indian Bombers team in the final game in a massive round of games at Royal Park’s Western Oval.

Senshu Powers forward Kyo Nakagawa went to the top of the Division 2 goalkickers list with 4 big goals for the Samurais, with Hisayoshi Oura from the Tokyo Suns and Samurai’s legend Michato Sakaki the best for Japan.

It was a tough start for the Indians but it will only get tougher with the impressive German team ahead of them before the big clash under lights in Bendigo against their Pakistani rivals on Friday night. AFL India legend Sudip Rajbanshi, their best player, never gave up, providing exceptional leadership for his team all day.

All the teams will now get a few days to rest and prepare for the midweek school round, with two big games at Mentone Grammar and further games at Mount Clear and Eltham College.

Comprehensive coverage of the International Cup can be found at World Footy News with all games available at the IC17 youtube channel.