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Aussie Rules rushes in

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Members of Soluy Louet’s AFL team training at Kralanh Primary School in Siem Reap.

A 7Days article about a female Khmer school teacher who coaches a co-ed Australian Rules football team in Siem Reap has sparked a sponsorship tug of war between two national Aussie Rules teams based in West Australia – the Fremantle Dockers and the West Coast Eagles.

On May 20 this year, 7Days’ Michael Sloan reported that: “When a group of visiting Australian teachers threw a football to Soluy Louet outside Siem Reap airport last November, they had little idea their goodbye present would start a chain of events that led her to found and coach a co-ed Australian Rules Football (AFL) team in Siem Reap.”

And now, of course, spark a sponsorship battle.

The article in May revealed that Craig Munday, part of the group of Australians visiting Kralanh Primary School in Siem Reap where Soluy Louet teaches IT, didn’t only leave her a football – he also presented her with a Fremantle Dockers FC shirt, which prompted her to start her internet research on the sport.

After yet another gift arrived from Munday – an AFL instructional video – Soluy Louet began teaching the game to her students in February.

Her Aussie Rules group swelled to 80 players between the ages of 12 and 18 and even included students from neighbouring primary and secondary schools.

The 7Days story also stressed that Soluy Louet’s focus was firmly on competing in an upcoming match against the Phnom Penh-based AFL club, the Cambodian Cobras, who have now become the Cambodian Eagles.

Shortly after the story was published, Gary Adshead reported in the West Australian newspaper on May 30 that “Cambodia could hold the key to Australian Rules football making it as an international sport”.

Adshead’s article summarised the 7Days story stressing Soluy Louet’s team’s affinity with the Fremantle Dockers.

Shortly after that appeared, a follow-up piece was published which stated: “The West Coast Eagles aren’t about to let the Fremantle Dockers start a franchise in Cambodia.”

The article said that West Coast’s media minder Gary Stocks had read the reference to the teacher in Siem Reap, and revealed that the West Coast Eagles had visited Phnom Penh in the pre-football season.

The article said that this “… also led to a Cambodian connection – to a rival team to the teacher’s”.

Stocks told the reporter that team members built 10 houses while in Cambodia and forged a strong rapport with team members of the Phnom Penh-based AFL team, the Cambodian Cobras. The article then said that a deal had been sealed for the West Coast Eagles to support the team which would become known as the Cambodian Eagles.

But no details about the deal have been forthcoming – 7Days’ queries to both Australian football clubs have gone unanswered.

On Monday, the journalist Gary Adshead told 7Days that he hadn’t heard of the sponsorship details and didn’t expect anything further to happen “until after the season finishes”.

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