AFL growing in western Sydney

The Cattery Roar Guru

By The Cattery, The Cattery is a Roar Guru

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    Over the past 12 months, we have been accustomed to seeing the Sydney print media making war analogies in describing the arrival of AFL’s 18th club, the GWS Giants to the New South Wales capital.

    The Saturday Telegraph was at it again on the weekend, with no fewer than three pages dedicated to the “battleground” of Sydney’s west. In addition, the editorial focused on the issue, along with a separate story on women’s footy in western Sydney in another part of the paper.

    That’s some serious coverage of the “war in Sydney’s heartland”.

    However, it has to be said that the coverage was not entirely about raising the ire of the natives. Some good data was provided, as were some real stories.

    In summary, the data shows that the AFL has made big inroads into Australia’s largest city over the last seven years at a grassroots level. By the same token, as one would expect, the numbers show that Australian Football is well behind rugby league as far as most metrics go.

    The middle spread of “Inside Edition” has a map illustrating that 35 AFL grounds have been built in metropolitan Sydney over the past 10 years.

    Focusing on western Sydney, Australian Football is now played by 258 schools in formal school competitions, around half as many as you will find playing rugby league.

    School participants in Australian Football has grown from a low 1,460 in 2005 to now being 13,682 (compared to 21,137 school participants playing rugby league).

    In terms of actual clubs, rugby league is well ahead, with 20 senior clubs and 97 junior clubs while there are only 28 Australian Football clubs in total (counting both senior and junior clubs).

    The AFL matches the number development staff that league has in western Sydney, although a large number of the AFL staff are engaged on a casual basis.

    Nevertheless, it’s hard not to admire the great strides the AFL has made in getting young people to try Aussie Rules in a region where not too long ago, the game was barely known.

    One area where the AFL appears to have stolen a march on the NRL, is with the participation of females in the game. There are 11 women’s clubs in the west compared to four women’s rugby league clubs.

    There is a method to the madness here. Females make up 40 to 43 percent of all attendances, memberships and ratings the AFL.

    The Telegraph editorial on Saturday makes a reference to the AFL’s willingness to plan for the next two decades, whereas NRL seems to plan season to season.

    The editorial’s conclusion is refreshingly optimistic, and difficult to argue with: at the end of the day, it amounts to more footy for western Sydney, “and that can only be a good thing.”

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    The Crowd Says (129)

    • March 13th 2012 @ 7:59am said | March 13th 2012 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      Is that all that 200 million gets the afl?

      I think the afl are just throwing money away when they could be helping the struggling Melbourne clubs.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 8:30am
        The Cattery said | March 13th 2012 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        The AFL already does a lot to help the weaker Melbourne clubs, some would argue that they already do too much.

        • March 13th 2012 @ 2:37pm
          Nathan of Perth said | March 13th 2012 @ 2:37pm | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 8:37am
        Redb said | March 13th 2012 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        Get it right, it’s

        Soon the .afl will be a registered domain suffix for clubs and other organisations associated with the AFL. eg: etc

        The $200M is the total spend over 10 years, not this year.

        • March 13th 2012 @ 8:51am
          Ian Whitchurch said | March 13th 2012 @ 8:51am | ! Report

          To get to that number you also need to include all the regular distributions and so on.

          To find the AFL Sekrit Plan – and it’s designed to answer the question of ‘OK, you’re struggling. What can we help you do about it ?” – google ‘AFL disequal funding package’. Its the pdf document entitled “Club funding and equalisation strategy”

      • March 16th 2012 @ 5:59am
        Fitzy said | March 16th 2012 @ 5:59am | ! Report

        What Struggling clubs like Hawthorn, Collingwood, Carlton and Geelong. The fact is more exposure of AFL to Western Sydney people will mean more club memberships (not just Sydney teams, there will be some that follow Melb teams) more merchandise sales and greater broadcasting rights. If struggling sides in Melb could get this from an already saturated Melb sporting scene they wouldnt be struggling!

    • March 13th 2012 @ 9:04am
      Tigranes said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      The Cattery, soccer is no.1 sport in western Sydney, something like 200,000 people in western sydney are registered soccer players.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 11:29am
        The Cattery said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:29am | ! Report


        I’m not here to start an argument about what’s bigger or smaller – the Telegraph has focused on Australian Football, and the Saturday paper dedicated over 3 pages to the “battlefield” of Western Sydney, in its view, being a battle between League and Australian Football.

        That soccer and rugby wasn’t mentioned amongst this series of articles is an interesting question in its own right, and perhaps one day we might have a discussion about that as well.

        • March 16th 2012 @ 4:54pm
          JVGO said | March 16th 2012 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

          As I have pointed out numerous times this AFL/NRL dchotomy is the preferred rhetoric of probably both PR departments and definitely the Tele itself. Incredibly misleading in reality of course if you are at all familiar with the sporting fabric of Sydney as all the lesser sports will be the ones that will really struggle in terms of sponsors funds and media interest. But this head to head NRL/AFL for the number one spot is the preferred spin of everyone involved apparently.

          But with regard to the SMH’s much improved coverage of the NRL this is a smart move. Although the SMH is generally not as good a paper as it once was I always read the SMH generally but bought the Tele simply for it’s NRL coverage. The Herald’s policy of providing a better NRL cover than the Tele is smart as their is simply no reason to buy the Tele. The SMH’s previously pro RU and AFL policy was a disaster for them and a big part of the difficulties in which they find themselves now.

    • March 13th 2012 @ 9:07am
      D.Large said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Agree the AFL seems to be doing all the right things, but it will just never be more than a niche market. Most would agree that the Swans have been raging success yet by AFL standards they have one of the poorer memberships and crowd numbers in the league and that is with an unbidled level of success between 1996 and today.

      • March 13th 2012 @ 9:39am
        Cameron said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        D. Large

        I don’t think 1 flag in that time amounts to “unbridled success”

        • March 13th 2012 @ 10:40am
          Ian Whitchurch said | March 13th 2012 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          Doggies, Tigers, Dees or Saints would be more than happy with that.

    • March 13th 2012 @ 9:22am
      Pando-monium said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      Why can’t we be spoilt for choice and enjoy all codes??

      • Roar Rookie

        March 13th 2012 @ 11:21am
        ItsCalled AussieRules said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:21am | ! Report

        There is nothing stopping kids playing AFL for the last 50 years in Sydney. This is the myth that the AFL perpetuate that the “poor little kids” of Sydney can’t play AFL because of the Soccer and Rugby League “bullies”.

        There are more than enough AFL parks in Sydney and most of them are hardly used, which annoys the hell out of football and rugby teams who struggle to get a park with any grass on it, because they are so overused..

        The “AFL participation rates” and inflated with Auskick and school kids, where the AFL has paid the NSW Education Dept to run Auskick Classes for PE in primary schools.

        You will find that the actual junior participation rates in Sydney have increased a modest 10% in 5 years compared to over 100% for football in the same period.

        The AFL are spending millions and millions recruiting youg people to play AFL in NSW and Qld and even giving away free kit and free $20 NAB bank accounts to get them to play, so the growth is pretty disappointing really.

        Interest in the Sydney Swans and AFL is declining in Sydney and the Giants have only signed up about 5K members, of which 3K don’t even live in Sydney.

        Not a lot to crow about, given the huge investment in time and money – your money.

        • Roar Guru

          March 13th 2012 @ 11:31am
          The Cattery said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:31am | ! Report

          No one has referred to soccer or league bullies.

        • March 14th 2012 @ 6:22am
          ManInBlack said | March 14th 2012 @ 6:22am | ! Report

          In the past the only ovals were locked up by cricket clubs protective of grassed wicket blocks and due to allegiences to other football codes – were unfriendly towards ‘aerial ping-pong’.

          That the AFL has invested millions of dollars into ground development is perhaps only an issue because soccer and rugby don’t.
          Soccer and rugby tend to rely on friendly councils.

          However, we’ve seen more and more local councils find that the AFL is a good bunch to work with because the AFL puts up its own money.

          btw – does anyone else get confused when even an anti-AFL poster keeps switching between ‘soccer’ and ‘football’ and it almost becomes unreadable. Can’t we just have everyone call each code something other than ‘football’ when there’s a cross code discussion??

        • March 16th 2012 @ 6:11am
          Fitzy said | March 16th 2012 @ 6:11am | ! Report

          You dont know what ur talking about, Syd Swans membership 23350 GWS membership 7100 , thats 30k afl followers that are prepared to buy memberships! How many does Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets and CC Mariners have, it would be lucky to be 20k with 3 clubs. Typical anti AFL!

          • March 25th 2012 @ 8:44am
            mick h said | March 25th 2012 @ 8:44am | ! Report

            how many of those memberships of the swans and giants are sydney people

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 11:29am
        mds1970 said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Because code wars are fun.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 11:41am
        The Cattery said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        Why can’t we be spoilt for choice and enjoy all codes??

        That’s precisely what the editorial in the Saturday Telegraph said, and which I am hoping to reinforce here.

        From my perspective, I accept a large gap will always exist between League and Australian Football in the Sydney market place, but I’m more than happy for the AFL to have a decent presence in that market.

        • Roar Rookie

          March 13th 2012 @ 4:47pm
          ItsCalled AussieRules said | March 13th 2012 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

          We are already spoilt for choice – its not a matter of not being able to choose or watch AFL in NSW or Qld – far from it!.

          Its a calculated, pre-meditated grab for the Sydney sporting market by any means – fair or foul with lots and lots of money.
          Then throw in a lot of marketing and media hype.

          • Roar Guru

            March 13th 2012 @ 5:00pm
            The Cattery said | March 13th 2012 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

            It’s only two AFL teams for Australia’s largest city, surely no one could ever argue that two teams is too many?

          • March 13th 2012 @ 10:45pm
            TJ said | March 13th 2012 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

            ICAR – seriously give it a rest, your mythical anti-AFL bashing is tiresome and irrational. Australian rules has as much right to enter schools as football, league or union. We live in a free society. I live in Sydney and I find it distasteful for you to suggest that my child is obligated to play football or league and be protected from those foreign raiders. You don’t hear Melbournians complaining about the Rebels or Storm running their school clinics. Quite the contrary.

            • Roar Rookie

              March 13th 2012 @ 11:08pm
              ItsCalled AussieRules said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:08pm | ! Report

              If you do live in Sydney, your children are under no obligation to play anything.

              I wish you Aussie Rlules followers would stop going on about how we need a second AFL team so that kids have a choice.

              AFL has been in Sydney for a long long time and they have always had a choice to play AFL. We are not a communist city.

              I remember kicking around an AFL ball when I was a kid in Sydney about 30 years ago.

              • Roar Guru

                March 13th 2012 @ 11:18pm
                The Cattery said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:18pm | ! Report

                And more kids now get a chance to kick a footy around than even 5 years ago, let alone 30 years ago – what’s the big deal??

          • Roar Guru

            March 16th 2012 @ 3:22pm
            SportsFanGC said | March 16th 2012 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

            IC AR – So if the NRL go to Perth that is ok to make a pre-meditated grab for the Perth sporting market?

    • March 13th 2012 @ 9:47am
      D.Large said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      If you track it puerly by flags then yes perhaps ‘unbridled’ is going to far.
      But the Swans have made the finals in 14 of the last 16 years, you won’t find another club with a better finals record than that over the same period of time.

      • March 13th 2012 @ 3:26pm
        clipper said | March 13th 2012 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

        D.Large – they may have made the finals 13 times in 16 years, but they have only made the top four 3-4 times, mostly ending in the bottom reaches of the 8, so I would say their record is nowhere near as good as someone like Geelong. If you are talking about unbridled success you need to have the consistency of a club like Man United or Melbourne Storm (obviously before they were stripped). If the Swans had the run of those two teams you could argue that they should have a bigger following.

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

      Interesting article. The other benefit of having a good number of women playing is that they will influence their kids to play, especially the solo parents. Of course the down side may be that you will have knuckle draggers who will say that it is a ‘girlie’ sport because a lot more women play it than the other sport. But good luck to any code that can get more of the under represented demographics involved in playing sport.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 11:39am
        The Cattery said | March 13th 2012 @ 11:39am | ! Report

        Agreed – I’m all for increasing participation across all demographics. Soccer is the leader in this department, and will always be, but good luck to the AFL in trying to improve in this department.

        On top of the large percentage of women that follow the AFL, there is also a large number of women involved in grassroots footy, probably as many women as men.

      • March 13th 2012 @ 12:51pm
        Matt S said | March 13th 2012 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

        You’ll find single parents have enough on their hands and most not prone to playing any sport. A shame.

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