AFL’s missed oportunity in Sydney battleground
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The AFL season opener 2012 drew a crowd of 38,200 to watch the Sydney Swans play the Greater Western Sydney Giants. The match was played at Sydney’s ANZ stadium, which can hold 82,000 fans.
Almost a half-full stadium for the first game on the AFL calendar.
If the AFL wants to expand and become ‘the national game’, then the best way to do that is by trying to recruit the mass audience in Western Sydney to watch AFL.
But is creating a brand new club of underdeveloped players the best way to go about it?
If I lived in Western Sydney and I had the option of going to watch GWS being belted by various teams week after week or watch a game of NRL, I’m ashamed to say I would consider the second option.
Of course, after a couple of years of development GWS should mature and start winning games of football, but by then most of Western Sydney who had an interest in the first place would have moved back to watching the brand of football where throwing the ball is considered appropriate.
Why don’t we give an AFL team to a deserving state that actually watches AFL and wants a team? Tasmania, for instance.
Tassie has played our great game since the 1860s and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, have the second-highest attendance rate in the country with 30% of people surveyed, having attended a footy game in the last year.
Compare that with the New South Wales attendance rate of 4.7 percent and it’s clear that the people of NSW don’t like AFL or just don’t understand it or something.
And Tasmanians aren’t just watching the game. Three per cent of the population have played Aussie rules footy in the past year — the third highest participation rate in the country, behind Victoria and Western Australia.
NSW, on the other hand, had less than 0.3 percent, the lowest in the country.
Some of the AFL’s greatest champions have come from Tasmania; Richardson, Stewart, Hart, Hudson, Eade, and Lynch to name a few.
With such a rich talent pool in the state, it’s no wonder Tasmanians have some of the highest footy participation rates in the country.
The problem with Tasmania is that the north and south of the island can’t seem to agree on who should own the team.
Either way, they won’t struggle to fill Aurora Stadium this weekend with Hawthorn and North Melbourne, Tasmania’s two adopted teams playing each other.
Launceston will be cheering for Hawthorn and Hobart for North Melbourne, such is the rivalry between the two ends of the state, but if they are ever going to make headway in the AFL, Tasmanians need to put their two heads together and decide on one team.
AFL would be taken seriously in Tasmania and it would bring the state together.
Apart from the state cricket team in the summer, there doesn’t seem to be much going on in Tasmanian sport especially in the winter months.
With a captive audience of some 511,000 people, the AFL needs to get into this untapped region for expansion of the national game before the Hyundai A-League do and at the very least, give the people of Tassie something to do.
Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales each have at least two AFL teams. It’s time that a Tasmanian team was admitted to the AFL.
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