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National Championship 2016-17

Posted on Sunday, February 5, 2017 by ARFAI,


Kevin Sheedy along with CEO of OGM Peter Winford handing over the Winners Trophy (Sr) to Mahesh Tirkey


The 5th annual National Championship of Australian Rules Football in India, organized by Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI) was held at the Sailen Manna Stadium in Howrah, West Bengal, on 16-17 January 2017 with the best 200 players from across the nation representing seven Indian states in two divisions.

The tournament saw two days of crunching tackles, breathtaking goals and a constant rush of adrenaline, with the Jharkhand Crows defeating the three-time defending champions Bengal Tigers 3-3-21 to 2-7-19 in the senior division after an evenly contested Grand Final. The junior division saw the Jharkhand Crows win the trophy three times in a row defeating the Odisha Swans (who made it to the finals or the first time) 4-6-32 to 1-1-7.

The major highlight of the tournament was AFL/Essendon FC legend Kevin Sheedy flying over to Kolkata for the same and identify potential Footy talent in India, help shortlist the Indian team that would travel to Australia in August this year for the AFL International Cup and also understand the voluntary work put in by AFL India to grow the exciting Australian sport in India.

Craig Findlay and Paula Shay - Chair and Vice Chair of Bendigo Umpires' Association

ARFAI was also honored to host the Bendigo Umpires Association Chairman and Vice Chairman – Craig Findlay and Paula Shay who travelled over from Bendigo, Victoria, as a part of a group of 13 travelers led by Bruce Claridge, AFL Chaplain. Craig and Paula organized a brilliant umpiring workshop with participants from all seven states on the day before the tournament and made sure they executed their learning on the field during the tournament. Craig and Paula ran around tirelessly themselves helping a smooth flow of matches and educating the players when they made mistakes. “Umpires from Australia officiating the matches themselves along with newly trained Indian umpires made a big difference this year” added Shane Sayner, an AFL India patron from Adelaide, who has been attending all editions of the Indian national champs since 2013.

15th January 2017 at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan school ground in Salt Lake, Kolkata, also saw a master-class from Kevin Sheedy where he took all the players through basic skills of the game, which he thought they needed more focus on to get better. This was followed by a skill building / career guidance workshop for all participants led by Supreet Khosla, Country Manager – India, OGM Technical Institute, which is one of the longest serving sponsors of AFL India.”It is a great way to provide an opportunity for our players, who are mostly from underprivileged backgrounds, to get trained and get jobs to support their families along with playing Footy. Thanks to OGM Technical Institute for extending the opportunity to our players whom we would encourage to enroll for the courses offered. We would like to consider offering scholarships for our better players to enroll with OGM in the near future as well” added Mona Kalra, Treasure of ARFAI.

Spot Kevin Sheedy

The second day at the Howrah Stadium saw the Maharashtra Giants, Odisha Swans, Rajasthan Eagles, Tamil Kangaroos, Kerala Bombers, Jharkhand Crows and Bengal Tigers play the league matches in junior and senior divisions after Kevin Sheedy launched the tournament.

The third and final day saw the last couple of league matches in the morning before the Grand Finals in the afternoon in presence of special guests from Australia and India, sponsors and media along with a number of local onlookers cheering for the teams.

The junior division Grand Finals saw the first time finalists Odisha Swans give their best to catch up with the Jharkhand Crows who took the lead from the start going on to win the ARFAI – Global Reach Cup 2017 for the third time in a row.

The senior division Grand Final was a closely fought game with the defending champions Bengal Tigers unwilling to give up till the end but quite deservingly Jharkhand Crows winning the ARFAI OGM Cup 2017 in the end to celebrate their first ever tournament win.

ARFAI board member and National Development Manager PM Chokshi said “It was a much deserved victory for Jharkhand in both divisions, specially the seniors winning it for the first time led by Indian team player Mahesh Tirkey. Mahesh like others in his team comes from a very humble background and has put in all his time to get the team here in the last three years. Very happy for the boys, felt like joining in with the boys when they celebrated with their local song from Jharkhand playing on the loudspeaker after the presentations”.


ARFAI acknowledges the brilliant support of our sponsors for the event, including OGM Technical Institute, Global Reach, ANZIBA New Delhi, Golden Square Football & Netball Club, The Telegraph – t2 and of course Essendon Football Club and the AFL who helped make this tournament successful.

Looking forward, the Indian team is scheduled to tour Australia in August this year and make their fourth appearance at the AFL International Cup (IC17). One would expect a good mix of players from the seven states in India, selected by Kevin Sheedy himself, to travel over to India, given ARFAI is able to find sponsors for the same.

“This is the biggest reward for our voluntary efforts to grow the game in India so far. Someone like Sheeds, the Pele of Australian Football witnessing the talent and efforts being put in back in India can only help our talent get noticed and hopefully also get us more support for continuing the work back home” said Sudip Chakraborty, the founder and Secretary General of Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI), who is now working with the Essendon Football Club and the AFL in Australia.

With Kevin Sheedy now taking a firm interest in the further development of the game in India, next year could be even bigger, bolder and better again. As he was quoted on the Essendon FC website – “This is a gold mine to be honest. These guys have got speed and skill, and they’ve got talent. All they’ve got to do is be taught.