AFL leads the way in country Australia

Cameron Rose Columnist

11 Have your say

    Plenty was made of the now-infamous ‘Wangaratta-gate’. As we know, Essendon failed to make it to the ground to play St Kilda in the NAB Cup due to a mistake in planning combined with inclement weather.

    The Bombers hierarchy wore the majority of the blame, even if the level of vitriol wasn’t quite in keeping with the offence.

    The AFL was also targeted in some quarters, notably being unjustly accused of not caring about the fans in regional areas.

    While it’s easy to tear down an organisation as large as the AFL, and I can assure you they’ve attracted my ire over the years, I think it’s time they took some credit for taking the game to the people in country Australia.

    Victor Harbour has a population of just over 11,000 people and is one of the fastest growing areas in South Australia.

    Do you think residents were disappointed in the AFL scheduling a pre-season match there on Saturday between Port Adelaide and Fremantle?

    Do you think they were angry at the chance to see Matthew Pavlich, a superstar of the past ten years, and Nat Fyfe, who is going to be one for the next ten?

    Were they upset about seeing the class of Travis Boak and Robbie Gray first hand? An estimated crowd of 5000 fans, or more than 40 percent of the Victor Harbour population, suggests otherwise.

    Maroochydore is one hundred kilometres north of Brisbane, and seemed to be more than pleased to be hosting elite AFL football.

    A recorded crowd of over 5000 people for a pre-season game in a rugby state is encouraging, and indicates that supporters of Brisbane, Carlton and the game of Australian Rules were more than happy to witness the great Chris Judd return to competitive football.

    They would have been even more pleased to see another generational baton-change, from past champion to future as Simon Black and Tom Rockliff combined to lead the Lions to victory.

    Perhaps the confidence gained from this victory will start Brisbane on the rise up the ladder after a wretched last two years. The people of Maroochydore can say that they were there the day the spark was lit.

    Ballarat, in north-west Victoria, was another country town that played host to an AFL game this weekend, between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.

    None of the 8000 people at Eureka Stadium were disappointed in the AFL’s scheduling, and why would they be after getting the chance to marvel at the explosiveness of Ryan Griffen, Brent Harvey and Daniel Wells and the next-generation hardness of Luke Dahlhaus, Jack Ziebell and Clay Smith?

    Perhaps the residents of Albury were lamenting Andrew Demetriou and co for bringing the game to them in the form of the Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants?

    Cursing them for seeing history made before their very eyes as former elite rugby league teammates Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau took to the same ground for the first time in an AFL match?

    7000 sets of eyes made one think that the opposite was in fact true.

    Other NAB Cup rounds saw matches take place in Mandura, Kellyville, and Launceston, while Canberra gets their first taste next week.

    There should be a good crowd to see Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Brett Deledio in the flesh as Richmond and GWS put the final touches on their preparations.

    Is the AFL addicted to frustrating rule changes and interpretations? Yes. Are they heavy-handed and possess all the subtlety of blunt-force trauma when issuing the latest in their long line of many decrees?

    The language might be a bit strong, but the assessment is fair. And is their stubborn refusal to acknowledge widely-regarded mistakes in policy enough to sap the spirit? Yes. Many, many times over.

    But the AFL is the country’s sporting leader when it comes to growing the game, and pushing the clubs into community and rural areas. So let’s not condemn them for one pre-season game that didn’t happen, and praise them for the many that did.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • March 13th 2012 @ 9:01am
      Tigranes said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      I would argue that the A-League has shown more initiative than the A-League in taking their game to regional areas – this season games have been played throughout regional NSW and Victoria.

      When was the last time the AFL played a regular season game in Morwell or Bathurst?

      • March 13th 2012 @ 9:44am
        camtherose said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Tigranes – while it’s easy to get into a code v code slanging match, and there’s certainly plenty of opportunities to do so at The Roar, this was more a positive piece about the AFL.

        Discerning readers will note that there was no disparaging mentions of other codes.

      • March 13th 2012 @ 11:19am
        Antonio said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:19am | ! Report

        When was the last time the a-league got more than a couple of thousand to these games? But I guess a couple of thousand is a good crowd in the A-league (especially for Heart).

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 1:13pm
        Redb said | March 13th 2012 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        Not sure how you are scoring that statement. The AFL has played numerous games in country areas over the years in the NAb Cop & challenge , clubs each year conduct their communtity camps in various locations as well.

        In any case, the A League should be doing more as they are still trying to build a base for a relatively new competition, the AFL should not rest on its laurels, but the A League has no choice to poke and prod to find a support base.

      • March 13th 2012 @ 3:54pm
        Australian Rules said | March 13th 2012 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

        With average crowds of around 35,000, I doubt the AFL will take regular games to Morwell anytime soon.

    • March 13th 2012 @ 9:20am
      D.Large said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:20am | ! Report

      Yes, couldn’t agree more. The AFL does much more than just lip service and genuinely gives back to these communities. Now if only they would stop changing the rules….

    • March 13th 2012 @ 10:50am
      Poohdini said | March 13th 2012 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      Its pretty easy to condem the AFL for the things they do. After all, they survey the community ask there opinion & do the opposite of what people really want.

    • March 13th 2012 @ 12:04pm
      Rob said | March 13th 2012 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      I think the AFL has done plenty historically and the fixturing of games in regional venues is the next step in that. The AFL generally protect their brand in so many positive ways to avoid the sagas many other codes face. They may have been cautious in some areas in terms of taking actual games to regional areas, but I think that’s a prudent approach. Your brand is so important, especially when there are many susbtitutes (in terms of entertainment) available to peope.

    • Roar Guru

      March 13th 2012 @ 5:45pm
      Lachlan said | March 13th 2012 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

      I only hope for more regional footy next year, still too many at elite AFL venues.

      Lets not forget the The AFL Community Camps as well, which are growing the game, in more ways then many.

    • March 13th 2012 @ 8:40pm
      Sausages said | March 13th 2012 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

      The AFL is doing a good job at reaching out to followers of the game who can’t regularly attend games in the big smoke during the H&A season. I would like to see a round dedicated to people who can’t afford to get to the footy who live close by and could attend if they had a bit more of a disposable income. There are plenty of die hard fans who just can’t afford the luxury that many of us take for granted with memberships, pay tv and regular attendance at games. Not sure how it could be achieved but I like the idea of it…

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