Jharkhand emerges double champions at the 9th National Championship

Jharkhand emerges double champions at the 9th National Championship

Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2024 by ARFAI,

Jharkhand Crows Senior team with the Trophy

The 9th Australian Football national championship in India, the ARFAI National Championship 2024, hosted by Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI) in association with Odisha Footy Association (OFA), made a triumphant return after a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Jharkhand emerging as double champions. With over a decade-long tradition, this annual tournament has become a cornerstone in the Indian Australian Football calendar, and the 2024 edition was a testament to the resilience and passion for the sport in India.

In an exciting showdown, Jharkhand Crows emerged victorious in both the junior and senior divisions. The junior team’s record-breaking win of 16-9-105 to 0-0-00 against Maharashtra Giants showcased their longstanding dominance in the junior division, while the senior Crows secured a commendable victory with a score line of 8-6-54 to 2-3-15 against the West Bengal Tigers.

The tournament, which couldn’t be organised in 2021-22 due to the pandemic, found its way back with the initiation of two regional events in 2023 – the East-North Zonal in Ranchi, Jharkhand and the West-South Zonal in Secunderabad, Telangana. These events paved the way for the grand revival of the National Championship in the small city of Baripada, Odisha. Taking place on the grounds of M.P.C. Autonomous College, Baripada between January 20th to 22nd, the championship saw participation from 10 states, fielding 10 senior teams and 8 junior teams, comprising over 250 players and officials. The participating states, including debutants Uttar Pradesh Hawks, added to the diverse and competitive landscape of the tournament, while Tamil Nadu Kangaroos had to withdraw their participation at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances.

Day one saw a mix of competitive league matches alongside a few games where some of the more experienced state teams dominated over some of the newer states. The Maharashtra Giants, Odisha Swans and Kerala Bombers played some quality footy, improving their performance form previous tournaments. Uttar Pradesh Hawks, making their debut at the national competition, brought enthusiasm and spirit to the championship.

Day two saw the remaining league matches in the morning, deciding the finalists for the junior division and semi-finalists for the senior divisions. The West Bengal Tigers defeated Maharashtra Giants and Jharkhand Crows defeated Odisha Swans to enter the Senior Grand Final.

The junior Grand Final saw a clean sweep led by the dominating Crows whereas the senior Grand Final saw the arch-rivals battle it out once again for the championship with Jharkhand emerging as comfortable winners in the end. The championship also served as a platform for the selection of the senior ‘All Star 30’ team, who will stand a chance to represent India at the AFL Asia Cup 2024 later this year.

Jharkhand Crows Junior team with their Trophy

The awards were handed out by a number of special guests attending the tournament, including the Chief Guest – Rowan Ainsworth, Australian Consul General, Kolkata; Sarojini Hembram – Former Minister and Rajya Sabha MP, Odisha, Debashish Marandi, SDC Chairman, Mayurbhanj, Odisha and Rakesh Singh, Indian National Congress leader; the 13 Australian volunteers from Bendigo, Victoria and Port Pirie, South Australia; alongside ARFAI senior leadership P.M. Chokshi, Rakesh Ghosh and Sudip Chakraborty.

The return of the tournament after three years resonated with joy and camaraderie among the states. Shane Sayner, volunteer from South Australia praised the Jharkhand Crows for their impressive coordination, going as far as suggesting that they could challenge local club teams in Australia! Indian captain Mahesh Tirkey who represents the Crows at the nationals attributed their success to the training session held by the Australian volunteers, emphasizing the importance of on-field communication. Noteworthy were the outstanding performances of first-year senior division Jharkhand players Deepak Oraon and Bansi Naik, with Bansi Naik earning a coveted spot in the All Star 30 team.

ARFAI is highly grateful to the supporters for the event including Stake.com, AFL Asia, SEED, PNZ Express, Bendigo Umpires Association (BUA), Golden Square Football Club and M.P.C Autonomous College, Baripada, Odisha.

The tournament concluded on a high with a lively awards ceremony post both the Grand Finals, followed by the winning team’s jubilant celebration, dancing to the tunes of their folk music. It was more than just a sporting event; it was a celebration of resilience, sportsmanship, and the shared love for Australian Football. The 2024 National Championship, with its unforgettable moments and remarkable achievements, etched a new chapter in the annals of Australian Football in India

Maharashtra Giants win both divisions at South-West Zonal Championship 2023

Posted on Monday, February 20, 2023 by ARFAI,

The victorious Maharashtra Giants (Sr) team with former India captain Sudip Chakraborty and current India captain Mahesh Tirkey
Maharashtra Giants (Sr) champions with Indian Captain Mahesh Tirkey and former Indian Captain Sudip Chakraborty

The Maharashtra Giants emerged victorious in both the senior and junior divisions at the joint South-West Zonal Championship 2023 organised by ARFAI is association with Telangana Footy Association (TFA) on 26th February 2023 at the Gymkhana Maidan, Secunderabad, Telangana.

The tournament saw 150 players and officials from across the south and western region state teams including senior and junior divisions, return to playing Australian Rules Football after a long gap due to Covid. States that participated were Maharashtra Giants (Sr & Jr), Andhra Pradesh Magpies (Sr & Jr), Tamil Nadu Kangaroos (Sr & Jr), Telangana Saints (Sr & Jr) and Kerela Bombers (Sr).

The tournament was won by the experienced Maharashtra Giants teams in both senior and junior division. While the senior division Grand Final saw a very tough competition put in by the debutant Kangaroos senior team, the Giants defeated the Saints quite convincingly in the junior division.

The Fair play award was won by the Maharashtra Giants team, who displayed great sporting spirit on and off field. One of the major highlights of the tournament was the ‘Best Player – Junior Division’ award won by Maksood from the Giants, representing his state and participating at any inter-state level competition for the very first time.

Maharashtra Giants senior division captain and former Team India player Zuber Baig said, “The tournament was great and a special thanks to all the teams who have participated post Covid and played really well. Hope to see everyone grow each year with more energy and talent to showcase. A huge thank you to ARFAI and the Telangana state organising committee for the warm welcome and hosting a great tournament for us all”.

The zonal has now brought back the players together from different states after a long gap. This will motivate them to now start with regular practice and also grow in numbers in new districts in their own states. All players and leaders across the country would now be awaiting eagerly for the return of the biggest Footy tournament in the country, the ARFAI National Championship.

The tournament very importantly also marks the launch of a yearlong program to restart Footy activities in south-western states of India and bring back participants to the sport post pandemic, supported by the AFL and AFL Asia. ARFAI is grateful to all its supporters who contributed to the success of the tournament including AFL Asia and the Australian Consulate, Chennai.

Bengal Tigers (Sr) & Jharkhand Crows (Jr) win EN Zonals 2023

Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2023 by ARFAI,

Bengal Tigers – winner of the East-North Zonal Championship 2023 (senior division)

ARFAI in partnership with Jharkhand Footy Association (JFA) as the local organising committee, organised the joint East-North Zonal Championship 2023 on 29 January at the Morabadi Mandir Ground in Ranchi, Jharkhand. The junior division title was won by the Jharkhand Crows defeating West Bengal (1-3-9 to 0-3-3) in a closely contested match, where both the teams did not give a chance to the opponent to score much in the game. In the senior division, the West Bengal Tigers won the title against the Jharkhand Crows with a good margin (6-4-28 to 0-5–5).

Returning to competitive football post Covid after a gap of nearly 3 years, ARFAI organised this inter-state championship comprising 6 states from the Eastern and Northern part of the country, a step away from the annual National Championship organised in the past and the slowly starting zonal championships in India. The 6 states comprising West Bengal Tigers, Odisha Swans, Rajasthan Eagles, Bihar Bulldogs, host state Jharkhand Crows and the debutant Uttar Pradesh Hawks, competed in junior and senior divisions with 178 players participating.

Jharkhand Crows – Winners of the junior division

In the senior division, the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award went to Amaresh Mondal from the Tigers who scored 3 goals in the Grand Final to seal the victory for his state team. (POT award not given) The ‘Best Goal’ was taken by Indian Captain Mahesh Tirkey playing for his home state Jharkhand. Mahesh who was also the leader of the local organising committee, balanced his organising responsibilities extremely well with his on field-performance, coupled with a knee injury as well. The ‘Best Defender’ was awarded to Shiba Marndi from the Odisha Swans team and the ‘Best Mark’ by Rajesh Rana from the Rajasthan Eagles. In the junior division the ‘Player of the Tournament’ was Niket Khalko from the Jaharkhand team. (Award not given).  The ‘Best Goal’ was scored by Sushil Kumar, the Vice Captain on the Eagles team, the ‘Best Mark’ was taken by Shubhash Bilung from the Crows while the ‘Best Defender’ trophy was awarded to Alok Kumar from the Bihar Bulldogs. The ‘Sayner’s Fair Play’ awards, supported by long-time supporters of ARFAI, the Sayner family led by Shane Sayner from Adelaide, Australia were won by the debutant Uttar Pradesh Hawks in senior division and Bihar Bulldogs in junior division.

ARFAI was honoured to host the Hon. Australian Consul General from Kolkata, Ms. Rowan Ainsworth who travelled over to Ranchi specially for the tournament and graced the event by her presence. A welcome dance by the indigenous community from the state was preformed to welcome her and she actively joined the group to shake a leg.  Among many other guests who attended the event to support the development of Footy in the state, ARFAI was pleased to host Mr. Madhukant Pathak, President of Jharkhand Athletic Association and Mr. Rajinder Prasad, President of Jharkhand Netball Association.

Girls from Ranchi and Khunti district of Jharkhand in action

Before the senior division semi-finals, Hon. Rowan Ainsworth thoroughly enjoyed the girls’ exhibition match that was organised between Ranchi and Khunti districts, two district teams of Jharkhand. The Grand Finals were both highly enjoyable as both the junior and senior teams tried to put in their best performances to win the Cup for their states. ARFAI executive committee member Mr. Priyank Choksi said “After spending more than 2 years in Covid without any action on the ground, I am glad to see the skill improvement of the players in this tournament. As per the conversations with the participants, they are keen to take Aussie Rules football to the next level in India, which I am delighted to be a part of”.

Jharkhand Crows back on top – NC20

Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2020 by ARFAI,

Winners (Sr) of the eight annual National Championship – The Jharkhand Crows

The eighth edition of the annual National Championship of Australian Rules Football in India organised by Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI), resulted in the crowning of a new national champion in the senior division with Jharkhand Crows winning back the national title from Bengal Tigers by 05-02-32 to 03-04-22. The Bengal Tigers won the junior grand final for the very first time by defeating the 5-time defending champions Jharkhand Crows by a score of 04-04-28 to 02-05-17.

Each year, the tournament witnesses an increase in the level of competition, interest and development of the sport and this was added to the local crowd that gathered over the two days to watch a new sport they had never heard about. A crucial touch-point for the tournament success is the strong support displayed by the Australian umpires’ delegation that flew in from Bendigo, Australia to help organise the National Championship’2020. The delegation was led by Bendigo Umpires’ Association (BUA) Vice Chairperson Paula Shay and was supported by AFL Central Victoria from Australia.

Added to the group from Bendigo we had the privilege to host Shane Sayner, Treasurer of Port Pirie Football Club based out of the Australian state of South Australia and also a long-term supporter and well-wisher of ARFAI.

The gradual development of Footy in India is proved by the fact that every year, we have a new state debut in the National Championship and this year we had three teams making their debut from three different states.  A senior division debut was made by the Andhra Pradesh state team – Andhra Magpies alongside Jharkhand Crows, Bengal Tigers, Maharashtra Giants, Kerala Bombers, Rajasthan Eagles, Odisha Swans, Telangana Saints and Bihar Bulldogs. All though the Magpies failed to register a win, their efforts were loved and appreciated by all. The junior division also saw debut made by Bihar Bulldogs junior team and Telangana Saints junior team.

Debutants Andhra Pradesh Magpies vs Rajasthan Eagles

The ARFAI National Championship 2020 was organised at the Lalgola M.N. Academy ground in Murshidabad, West Bengal. ARFAI would like to recognise and appreciate the support provided by Footy Association of Bengal (FAB) and the Murshidabad Footy Association (MFA) in helping organise the national championship in the small country town of Lalgola, organised outside a big city for the very first time.

Day one saw a mix of very competitive league matches added to a few games where some of the more experienced state teams dominated over some of the newer states. The few hundred spectators gathered were all impressed by some of the high scoring games. The Kerala Bombers and Odisha Swans played some quality footy, improving their performance from the previous year.

The day also started with an opening ceremony including a march-past around the ground by all participating states letting the local crowd of Lalgola know that they have travelled all the way from their states to showcase their skills in the rapidly growing sport of Footy. They were led by the National Cadet Corps (NCC) troop from Lalgola before the customary national anthem of India was sung together by everyone attending the tournament to kick off the first league game between Bengal Tigers and Bihar Bulldogs (Sr.)

Snapshot from Crows Vs Tigers Grand Final with the crowd cheering for the teams

ARFAI has received increasing media attention every year and this year the interest from media personnel to understand the new sport caught everyone’s attention. We thank all the media houses from the state of West Bengal and Jharkhand along with local media houses from Murshidabad districts for taking interest in Australian Football and sharing the stories with sports lovers in the country.

Day two saw the remaining league matches in the morning deciding the finalists for the junior division along with the semi-finalists for the senior divisions. The Bengal Tigers and Kerala Bombers from Group A of senior division along with the Jharkhand Crows and Odisha Swans from Group B fought it out in the two most exciting games of the day. Bengal Tigers ended up defeating the Odisha Swans 01-08-14 to 01-03-09 in the first semi-final while the Jharkhand Crows defeated the Kerala Bombers 05-04-34 to 01-02-08 to repeat the historic and now traditional Bengal versus Jharkhand senior Grand Final.

The Bengal Tigers juniors led by their captain Selim Raja and coached by the veteran Biswajit Das put on a fantastic performance in the Grand Final to defeat the five-time reigning champions Jharkhand Crows and took the junior division trophy away from them for the very first time. The local crowd gathered cheering for the home state team broke loose and gathered on the ground to congratulate the winning team

The Senior Division Grand Final saw these two powerhouses of Indian footy facing off against each yet again. The Tigers started with intent and took control of the game early on. Led by their captain and star player Mahesh Tirkey (who was also the senior Player of the Tournament), Jharkhand Crows were determined to win back the title they had lost previous year to the Bengal Tigers. The Crows with a lot of experienced players in the side including five international players proved themselves in front of the crow that was supporting the home state.

The Senior finalists Jharkhand Crows & Bengal Tigers lining up with the Umpires before the Grand Final

Paula Shay from BUA was very happy to be back in India for the third time umpiring voluntarily at the ARFAI National Championship again. She thought “the skill level and enthusiasm grows each year and with it we expand the details of our coaching and umpiring. The distance the players can kick has increased dramatically, marking contests see two or three players reach for the sky and the final scores are higher due to increased goals (which can only happen from a kick with no interference)”.

ARFAI would like to thank the supporters for the event, including the Australian High Commission – New Delhi, the Australian Consulate General – Chennai, SEED, NEEDS, Buy Box Online, Bendigo Umpires Association (BUA), Essendon Football Club and the Gamila Nabin Sangha, West Bengal.

India Vs Australia – Historic day for Footy in India

Posted on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 by ARFAI,


Historic Ind Vs Aus match under way with thousands watching

The seemingly incessant rain gave way to partially clear skies as the AFL Masters (Australian) team disembarked the bus at Rabindra Mitali Sangha Ground in Daspur, West Midnapore, West Bengal, on the afternoon of Saturday, 22nd July. This historic day will be marked in the records of ARFAI as the day when a small village in the West Midnapore district of West Bengal hosted the first ever international Footy match on Indian soil. The AFL Masters team took on Team India as part of the AFL Masters’ tour, and the memories of this day will live long with everyone who witnessed the momentous occasion.


Flag Hoisting ceremony & National Anthems of both countries being sung with Ms. Sidhu as Chief Guest

The AFL Masters team, comprising players above the age of 30, have started maing tours to Europe and Asia to promote Footy across the world. After having played England and Ireland last year, India was their second stop this year, after China, and they were treated to an experience of a lifetime. The West Midnapore Footy Association with support from Footy Association of Bengal (FAB) took the mantle of organizing the event and they ensured that it was a spectacle to behold. The inauguration ceremony saw the Guest of Honour, Australian High Commissioner in India, Ms. Harinder SIdhu, greet both sets of players following a flag hoisting ceremony, and our visitors from Down Under were treated to some traditional song and dance performances. Before the Footy players took to the pitch, there were exhibition matches of Kabaddi contested by girls and boys from the West Bengal Kabaddi Association. For most of the Australians present, it was the first time they were witnessing the indigenous Indian sport in flesh, which has become increasingly popular in India over the last 3-4 years. Notably, AFL India and Essendon Football Club helped form the first ever Australian Kabaddi team that participated in the Kabaddi World Cup in 2016 in India.


The Indian team at the historic match

Late afternoon saw the serious stuff unfold – the event that 6000 odd spectators from in and around the district had been waiting for. The AFL Masters and Team India took to the field to rapturous applause. Most of the bystanders had never seen a game of Footy, but that didn’t stop them from creating an atmosphere of a true sporting spectacle; and the game did not disappoint. The first quarter was a closely contested affair ending in 3.5.23 – 3.2.20 in favour of the Australians and the fight put up by the Indian amateurs drew ample praise from the Ms. Sidhu and her team from the Australian Government Ms. Geraldine Gant, First Secretary, Public Affairs, Australian High Commission in India. But the experience and endurance of the Masters’ players shone through as the game went on, and the match ended 12.26.98 – 4.7.31 in their favour. In a match where the final score was of little significance, the Indian players left the field with their heads held high knowing that they had pushed the Masters’ to be at the top of their game and identified areas of improvement in their own.

According to Bengal Footy Association Secretary General Rakesh Ghosh, who also led the Indian team on field for the match, “We had put in a lot of hard work along with the West Midnapore District Footy Association to get the show together for the day. The heavy downpour in the morning before the game had got us scared but everything went really well in the end and thanks to the local crowd who travelled over to the stadium from all parts of the district to make this game more memorable for us. Would also like to specially thank Mr. Utpal Samanta and Mr. Probir Mondal, our district association leaders who ran the show on the day and made it a grand success.”

The victorious Australian (AFL Masters) team with the trophy

The victorious Australian (AFL Masters) team with the trophy

The biggest highlight of the day for the Indian team, apart from being cheered for every run by 6000 plus spectators, was the fact that they spent an entire day with their Australian counterparts who shared their knowledge, advice and words of encouragement. This would definitely serve as the perfect precursor to their participation in the International Cup (IC) 2017 starting from 5th August in Australia. For the Masters on the other hand, everything was a highlight apparently. They experienced a side of India and Bengal that they had never even heard of, complete with social, cultural and sporting immersions. According to one f the Australian team players, there was no comparison between the experiences they had in China to what they experienced in India, which was a huge complement for AFL India. There was a lot to talk about on the bus journey back and there will be more when they see some familiar faces Down Under during the IC17.

While talking to ARFAI Founder & Secretary General Sudip Chakraborty, Ms. Sidhu mentioned “it was truly fantastic to have attended the tournament on the weekend. The team spirit and also the enthusiasm of the crowd more than everything made up for all the rain! I am a convert and you are to be congratulated for all the work you have done to bring the AFL relationship to this point.”


Teams cherishing the experience together after the match

Special thanks to the International Ambassador of the AFL Masters Paul Newbury, who had got in touch with Sudip who is now working for the AFL and Essendon FC in Melbourne, Australia, to make this memorable day take shape and also to our long term supporters Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan School, Salt Lake, OGM Technical Institute and Global Reach, who helped the Indian team prepare for the day.

Saurav Ganguly playing Footy

Posted on Friday, June 24, 2016 by ARFAI,


Our founder and Captain Sudip Chakraborty was recently on a worldwide popular Bengali TV show named ‘Dadagiri Unlimited’, hosted by the former Indian cricket legend Saurav Ganguly, where he introduced the sport to Saurav ‘Dada’ Ganguly and also the work put in by ARFAI to grow the game in India

ABC 7.30 Story on AFL India

Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 by ARFAI,

A great achievement for AFL India to be on the popular ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) 7.30 report, covering the development of Australian Rules Football throughout India.

AFL International Coordinator Visits India

Posted on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 by ARFAI,


The Footy journey of India gained further momentum as the AFL Multicultural and International Coordinator, Peter Romaniw, touched down in India for the coaches and umpires training for ARFAI officials. The training was scheduled on the 22nd and 23rd of November 2014 and was held at the school ground of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kolkata. A group of 19 participants, comprising officials and experienced players, underwent the 2 days training which included a few hours in the conference room and many on the field.10665870_889478704418550_3333959927272564815_n

The training, though intensive, was a rejuvenating experience for everyone present and was tailor made to instil ideas which can be directly implemented in coaching sessions. The drills included demonstration of basic skills and then an upgrade on the same to simulate in-game situations. There was a lot of emphasis on the SPIR method of training and the importance of an overall positive atmosphere around training. The session also covered umpiring standards with the help of video tutorials and quizzes. Lots of goodies were doled out as well, but the ultimate prize of the training will soon arrive in the form of an AFL Level 1 Coaching Certificate. As the curtains fell on the training session, everyone departed in high spirits, reemphasizing Peter’s aptly put words – “Footy, at the end of the day, is all about having fun.”

The day after the session saw Peter make the long trip to Bongaon, right on the Indo-Bangladesh border. An exhibition match was played out and the umpiring lessons previously learnt were put to the test. Peter witnessed the hardships spread across the land and the toil that some of the players had to endure to make a journey up to the city just to follow their passion.

Peter’s short stay involved some local sightseeing and trying out some local cuisines, all of which he claims to have liked. His short trip proved to be a highly productive one for the ARFAI and we express our sincerest gratitude to him and the AFL for the same. We look forward to more such endeavours on behalf of the AFL to help grow Footy in India and we’ll be waiting for Peter with more local cuisines and of course, more Footy!


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