As we flicked through the pages of AFL Asia’s history books we stumbled across the 2005 AFL International Cup and the opening Round 1 game of the ‘IC05’ tournament between the Japan Samurais and the Spain Bulls, which was played at the Murphy Reserve in Port Melbourne.
The Japan Samurais easily accounted for the Spanish outfit on the day with a comfortable 13.10 (88) to 2.5 (17) victory.
The Samurais took on the South Africa Lions in Round 2 and came up short by 2 points in an absolute nail biter 4.6 (30 to 4.4 (28).
Tougher and more physical matches in Round 3 & 4 against eventual winners New Zealand Falcons (79-6) and eventual 4th placed Ireland Warriors 53-6) put a fair dent in the Samurais confidence, but were wonderful learning experiences to say the least.
The Samurais were outmuscled by a more physical Great Britain Bulldogs in the Qualifying Final Round 9.9 (63) to 3.5 (23), but finished off their IC05 tournament in convincing style in the 9th and 10th playoff against the Spanish Bulls winning 11.7 (73) to 2.1 (13) at Ikon Park (Princes Park), which is the spiritual home of the Carlton Football Club.
The Japan Samurais IC05 side featured two players that have gone onto become absolute icons of the game in Japan and Japanese football royalty in Hideaki Miyasaka and Michito Sakaki.
Miyasaka-san has served as the AFL Japan President / Chief Director since 2005 and is one longest serving President in Asia. His longevity in the game is super impressive and it’s an incredible feat that he became the AFL Japan President in the same year as playing at IC05 and must be some sort of football pioneering achievement in itself within the AFL International landscape.
Miyasaka-san has given his heart and soul to the growth and development of the game and ensuring it’s sustainable for the future! As a player, Miyasaka-san proudly represented the Tokyo Gokongs (now defunct) and the Eastern Hawks on the domestic front with distinction and represented the Japan Samurais at the AFL International Cup in 2005.
Michito or ‘Mitch’ is the most successful Asian-born footballer having represented the Japan Samurais at every AFL International Cup since 2002, Captained the Samurais at several AFLIC’s and received AFL International Cup All-Stars team honours in 2005, 2008 (Rover) and 2017 (Forward Pocket) and was named the Division 2 MVP at the IC17. He’s been awarded the prestigious Peter Wilson on four occasions as the best player in the AFL Japan Domestic League.
Mitch represented the AFL Asia Lions and was an outstanding contributor during the 2017-2019 Curtain Closers to the AFL games played in Shanghai. Amazingly Mitch also played in a 16-a-side trial game for the Essendon Football Club against the Sydney Swans back in 2006, which highlights that he’s an immensely high-ended talent.
Michito-san has also served as AFL Japan Director for numerous years and is a tireless worker in the game development, junior development and public relations space.
Big thank you to Troy Thompson from the World Footy News for the pictures and information related to the history of the AFL International Cup.