Twenty three years have flown by since I first became involved with Australian Rules Football. Although many years have passed and I am now getting on in my middle-aged years, those younger years when I first encountered and became enchanted with footy is something I still remember very clearly. From hereon I would like to talk about that time and the formation of the Osaka Dingoes Australian Football Club.
In March 1990 I had already been in my career for 3 years and had come to grips with my job, thus allowing me a little more freedom to do other things. I had neglected sports since leaving High school so I thought about doing something again and for that purpose I went looking for a rugby team to join at Osaka Castle’s sporting fields which just so happened to be close to my work. However at the fields the sporting match that I found taking place was not rugby. It was not even soccer. It was a sport alien to me. However from watching it I found that it was speedy and really interesting. After watching for some time a person who seemed to be involved with this sport came over and passed me an application flyer which stated ‘Japan Australian Football Association JAFA – Join now as a member’. Later on I filled out the application and mailed it off (I did not know it at the time, but the match I had seen was between Japanese uni students from Tokyo and Australians from the Kansai area that had been gathered together by the Osaka Australian Consulate).
Then one day some months later I received a telephone call from JAFA saying that there were two other people in Osaka who had also become JAFA members so how about getting together? From that the 3 of us first met at Namba City shopping arcade. One of the members was a male public servant who would go on to become involved with the club for a long, long time. The other was a woman who worked in a bank. This meeting became the start of the football club.
To make a team you have to gather players, but in our case Aussie Rules was virtually unknown to Japanese. We started off with 3 ways to recruit. First was to place a recruitment article in all the newspapers. At that time the internet was not established so newspapers were the best option. As it was a rare sport in Japan, a lot of newspapers went along with putting out an article. A second idea was to ask for cooperation from groups that were already involved in cross-cultural relations with Australia. The group that did cooperate with us was the Kobe Japan-Australia Society (JAS) which supported people doing things such as overseas study and homestays. This group was able to introduce a few returnees to us. Another way was to get a poster put on the wall in the visa office of the Osaka Australian Consulate and ask for our contact details to be passed onto Australians in Kansai who looked likely to be interested in our club. From all this recruitment activity, just in Japanese alone we were able to find 10 members. At the start we called ourselves the ‘Kansai Australian Football Club’ as we had members not only from Osaka but also from places all over Kansai like Kobe, Kyoto and Nara. The nickname ‘Dingoes’ as well as the simultaneous change to ‘Osaka Australian Football Club’ happened five years later. We were the first team to be established outside of Tokyo.
From the members we assembled what will follow is an introduction of who was who at that time.
Members were very diverse. Nationalities were different, lifestyles were different, and the difference in ages between the youngest and oldest members was about 20 years, but everybody joined together. But in Japan, usually a sports clubs are usually made up of people from the same school, university or company. Recently, this system has changed, but at this time, this was very common. This new club had lots of different types of people and I was very impressed with this.
The 30th of March 1991 is when our first match against an opponent was held, with that opponent being a selection from four Kanto universities (Keio, Waseda, Senshu and Shonan Tech, all of which happened to be the only clubs with Japanese players at that time). The match was titled as the ‘East vs. West QBE Cup Challenge’ and the ground was the same rugby ground at Osaka Castle where I had first come across footy. A rugby ground was used because there were no proper footy grounds in Japan, with the comparatively smaller area leading to one team fielding twelve players on the ground.
The match saw both teams giving it a real red-hot go. In the first quarter the Kanto selection drew away from Kansai, while the second quarter saw Kansai come back to nearly level terms. After half-time both sides could not make a decisive break and the result could not be predicted. In the end, although we did not win, it was our first competitive match and we had fought really well. This competitiveness was more than we had expected and we were really satisfied with the result.
|Tokyo Universities||Kansai Club|
|1Q||4.7: 31||1.2: 8|
|2Q||6.11: 47||6.5: 41|
|3Q||10.14: 74||8.6: 54|
|4Q||11.17: 83||10.7: 67|
When I look back afresh at things again, I fully understand that we were able to put the new club onto the right track thanks not only to our members’ hard work but also due to the support of non-club members and bodies whose cooperation made possible the setting up of the new club. Here I would like to show my deep appreciation to everyone who had assisted the club at that time. Furthermore, with each on-going generational change the club that the first members and I started continues to exist 23 years on. With this in mind, I whole-heartedly wish for the further advancement of the Osaka Dingoes and the sport of Australian Rules football.