AFL: Absorbing, fascinating and leading the way

Simon Orchard Columnist

By Simon Orchard, Simon Orchard is a Roar Expert

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111 Have your say

    The AFL is the undisputed, pound-for-pound champion of Australian sport.

    It’s an all-encompassing juggernaut that, on the back of last year’s $2.5billion broadcast rights deal, is dominating todays sporting landscape like no other.

    The final siren of the 2016 AFL season rang out more than three weeks ago, but the pride of place that the AFL has continued to hold in the eyes, ears, heads and hearts of the Australian public is simply amazing.

    And they’ve done it in a variety of ways.

    Full-fledged attack-mode on the most talented young sportsmen and women in the country. Bold, yet tactical administration and brand maneuvers. Smart and savvy planning in places they never thought to tread. It’s been a guerilla assault on the Australian sporting landscape.

    If we zoom in on the end of the 2016 season, we get a perfect snapshot of why the AFL has such a strong stranglehold on not only the Australian public, but the title of our nations premier sport.

    Obviously, and deservedly, the Western Bulldogs time in the sun is still going. Nearly an entire month, and some, of tributes and accolades about the ‘Peoples Champs’ has been great to see.

    Spectators are drawn to the game of footy itself, but fans are drawn to characters and a sense of romanticism. Bob Murphy, Luke Beveridge, Tom Boyd, Jakey Stringer and Tom Liberatore have provided storylines over the past few seasons that have helped create the feel-good vibe that helped carry the Doggies to the title. And boy didn’t the AFL love it?

    However, less than a week after Luke Beveridge and Easton Wood proudly held the premiership cup aloft, confetti raining down from above, the AFL had another reason to stay glued to your television, newsfeed or Twitter account – The NAB AFL Trade Period.

    Two weeks of ferociously feverish wheeling and dealing where clubs fortunes could rise or fall; or player’s careers splutter or skyrocket after a simple swap. Hourly updates, daily wraps, trade period verdicts and actual AFL induced rumour and innuendo swept through just about every AFL fan.

    It all came to an end today, but not before it was live streamed around the country, five days a week for nine hours a day. The AFL’s number one journalist Damien Barrett and footy guru Terry Wallace lead the broadcast, and the entire NAB AFL Trade Radio team managed to captivate a collective of loyal listeners right up until the very last seconds of the trade deadline.

    They even stationed the broadcast right outside Etihad Stadium for periods of time, where they were privy to meetings, conversations and one-on-one interviews with recruiters, players and their managers alike. It made for great theatre and a was great advertisement for the sport.

    In terms of shock value, it certainly helped that this trade period had it in spades. The seemingly unfathomable decision by Hawthorn to push club legends Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis out was front-page news.

    The epic chase for Gold Coast midfielders Dion Prestia and Jaeger O’Meara was front-page news. Heck, half of the nations media outlets ran stories about potential stories that didn’t even end up being stories, all on the front page.

    Jaeger O'Meara Gold Coast Suns AFL 2014

    The NAB AFL Women’s Draft also took place on October 12th and gave the AFL another vehicle to capture the attention of a sport-loving nation thirsty for entertainment. It managed to take a stranglehold on headlines months before a ball will even be bounced.

    And it doesn’t stop if we look ahead. The NAB AFL Draft will be held on November 25th, with the pre-season and rookie drafts being held a few days later. It doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that the next fortnight’s news will be dominated by the lingering effects and chaos of the last few weeks, coupled with talk of prospective number one picks.

    Before you know it, pre-season hype will start to begin. Then the women’s competition will kick off. Shortly thereafter the NAB Cup will have hit our screens, probably before most of us realise the cricket is even on. It’s a relentless wave of content modelled on successful sporting bodies like the NBA and NFL.

    Pretty soon the AFL will be everywhere, if it’s not already, because who will stop it? And why would you want to anyway?

    It’s absorbing. It’s fascinating. It’s leading the way.

    Kudos to the AFL, you’re delivering knockout punch after knockout punch, and every other sport is wobbling their way towards the canvas.

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    The Crowd Says (111)

    • October 21st 2016 @ 3:54am
      handles said | October 21st 2016 @ 3:54am | ! Report

      “The AFL’s number one journalist, Damien Barrett…”


      • October 21st 2016 @ 8:13am
        I hate pies said | October 21st 2016 @ 8:13am | ! Report

        You beat me to it handles. Can he even be classified as a journalist? Every story he comes up with is either muckraking, mere rumour and innuendo, or down right wrong.

        • Columnist

          October 21st 2016 @ 10:43am
          Simon Orchard said | October 21st 2016 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          To clarify, Barrett works for the AFL website and is their number 1 journo.
          In saying that, like him or loathe him, he breaks a lot of the AFL news before most others.
          Nominated for a Walkley for his coverage of the Essendon drama which means he’s no slouch.

          • October 21st 2016 @ 11:03am
            I hate pies said | October 21st 2016 @ 11:03am | ! Report

            Walkley? Self praise is no praise, not that journalists, or actors for that matter, would understand the meaning of this. I could also break many AFL stories if I was part of the AFL propaganda machine.

          • Roar Guru

            October 21st 2016 @ 1:49pm
            Paul D said | October 21st 2016 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

            Walkleys are a giant waste of time, it’s got nothing to do with the quality of output and everything to do with the quality of your contracts.

            Chip Le Grand wrote far more and far better on Essendon than Barrett ever did.

            • October 21st 2016 @ 2:04pm
              richo said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

              google tells me he writes for the Australian…Im sure all 23 of his readers love him. Barrett is a good enough journo who breaks a lot of big stories to a broad audience

          • Roar Guru

            October 21st 2016 @ 2:01pm
            TomC said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

            Hey, my post got moderated out!

            All I did was call Barrett an ee-dee-ot. Hardly a minority opinion.

            • Roar Guru

              October 21st 2016 @ 2:08pm
              Paul D said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

              It’s not Sliding Doors without a cowardly attack on Rockliff. Every. Single. Week.

              I don’t think the guy has a future at the Lions but equally I don’t blame him for having a giant chip on his shoulder. Anyone who has played 134 games for the Lions since 2010 has spent most of that time up to their neck in incompetence and maladministration, not to mention 41 wins from 134 starts. He’s been part of more games lost by more than 50 points than he has been part of wins of any margin.

              Show me any player who’s still smiling and loving life after 6 years of that. And yet Barrett calls him out for being a flog routinely. I think it’s a disgraceful vendetta.

              • Roar Guru

                October 21st 2016 @ 2:18pm
                TomC said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

                I haven’t read it for a long time, but I’ll take your word for it.

                That Sliding Doors exists tells me everything I need to know about Barrett. The format is entirely built around formulaic, simplistic judgements without analysis or evidence. It’s not something a credible journalist would be involved with.

    • October 21st 2016 @ 4:15am
      correct sometimes said | October 21st 2016 @ 4:15am | ! Report

      is this a comedic piece? other sports are doing just fine, come to NSW and QLD once in your life. i will shout you a ticket to the next AFL test match

      • October 21st 2016 @ 10:37am
        Seano said | October 21st 2016 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        I live in QLD and no sport up here has the week in week out crowds that afl does. The bombers home crowds to end the spoon were bigger than the Sharks who won the flag.

        • October 21st 2016 @ 11:01am
          Correct sometimes said | October 21st 2016 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          How are afl crowds and interest in Qld?

          • October 21st 2016 @ 4:36pm
            Seano said | October 21st 2016 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

            Pretty good, there are more afl sides on the gold coast than league and union combined.

            • October 22nd 2016 @ 12:07am
              correct sometimes said | October 22nd 2016 @ 12:07am | ! Report

              please show this ?

            • October 24th 2016 @ 8:11am
              db swannie said | October 24th 2016 @ 8:11am | ! Report

              More afl propaganda

        • October 21st 2016 @ 11:11am
          offsider said | October 21st 2016 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          Sharks are from sydney.
          What FLAG did cronulla win.

        • October 21st 2016 @ 12:50pm
          Karma Miranda said | October 21st 2016 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

          Well let’s compare like for like, and not one of the AFL’s biggest club that plays Collingwood on Anzac day. The two Premiership winning sides:

          Cronulla average home crowd 2016 was 14,578 with a Stadium capacity of 22,000. Western Bulldogs home crowds for 2016 were averaged 30,699, with Etihad capacity at 53,359. Cronulla averaged 66% full, Bulldogs only 57%.

          So according to crowd figures, which sport is dominant?

          • Roar Guru

            October 21st 2016 @ 12:59pm
            Cat said | October 21st 2016 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            Would you rather sell an average of 30,699 tickets per game or 14,578? Unless that smaller number is going for twice the price it’s not even close to a contest. Last I checked NRL tickets also sell for a considerable amount less, not more per game.

            • October 21st 2016 @ 2:16pm
              Karma Miranda said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:16pm | ! Report


              If you’re running a Professional Organisation, would you rather have your Stadium 66% full, or 57% full? Perhaps the Bulldogs should go back to playing at Whitton Oval (a suburban ground like Shark Park) if they want to fill a Stadium in the Nation’s “most dominant sport”?

              • Roar Guru

                October 21st 2016 @ 2:23pm
                Cat said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

                If I am running a professional sporting organisation I’d rather sell 30k+ tickets rather than sub 15k

              • Roar Guru

                October 21st 2016 @ 3:53pm
                Cat said | October 21st 2016 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

                Let’s put it another way, if all tickets cost $10 each would you rather sell $145,780 worth of tickets or $306,990 worth?
                Consider on average AFL tickets cost a minimum of 25% more it becomes $145,780 compared to $383,737.50

              • October 28th 2016 @ 6:26pm
                prince igor said | October 28th 2016 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

                I find it quite amusing that lesser sports like RL even try to argue about crowds the AFL is so far out in front as far as crowds against ANY other sport on the nation its not even funny.

                AFL Crowds #1

                AFL Memberships #1 by a country mile

                AFL TV income # 1

                AFL TV ratings #1

                AFL overall income #1

                AFL Sponserships #1

                The list just goes on and on LOL

          • October 21st 2016 @ 1:10pm
            clipper said | October 21st 2016 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

            What a bizarre comment – are you seriously saying the one with half the attendance is more dominant? By that logic a team that has 900 people in a 1000 seat stadium would be more dominant as they were 90% full!

            • October 21st 2016 @ 2:18pm
              Karma Miranda said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

              Not bizarre…

              One scenario has a bigger crowd, the other scenario has a higher percentage of bums on seats. Who you deem to be dominant from these stats depends entirely on you point of view.

              • Roar Guru

                October 21st 2016 @ 2:24pm
                Cat said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

                When my kids play in the back yard I sit in the only seat available, putting my backyard ‘stadium’ at 100% capacity … guess by your metric my kids play the most dominate game in the world.

              • October 21st 2016 @ 3:11pm
                clipper said | October 21st 2016 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

                Cat – that was exactly the point I was making! Hope this guys not an accountant!
                It’s like saying the local pub band who fill the pub is bigger than a stadium band who don’t fill the stadium.

              • October 22nd 2016 @ 11:30am
                Perry Bridge said | October 22nd 2016 @ 11:30am | ! Report

                How about this –

                Cronulla 2016 members, 14,074
                Western Bulldogs 2016 members, 39,459

                NRL 2016 members 295k (they were hoping to break the 300k barrier for the first time)
                AFL 2016 members 875k (up from 836k in 2015).

                Now – Cronulla average home crowd was over 100% relative to total members.
                The Doggies average home crowd was around 77% relative to total members.

                What that tells me is that the AFL is clearly more ‘global’ versus ‘local’. Cronulla is far more likely to have a localised fan base. And are pretty well working to capacity. And that’s the NRL – it’s a localised Sydney game with reasonable outposts in QLD and an expeditionary force regularly sent down to Melbourne.

                Noting the 3 QLD NRL clubs have a combined membership of around 65k (36k for the Broncos which ironically equates to the combined tally of the Suns and Lions for the AFL). So, 101k combined memberships in QLD across 5 teams, avg 20k each but only Lions (incl old Fitzroy Vic based members) and Broncos exceed the avg.

                AFL has combined 72K for Sydney and GWS, but again, GWS is spread including Canberra based. The Swans though with 56.5k members (incl old SthMlb Vic based) exceeds the best NSW based NRL side – the Rabbitohs by about 24k).

                The best AFL clubs Haw, Coll and Rich have 75, 74 and 72k respectively. Throw in the Eagles at #4 and a combined and the top 4 AFL clubs have almost eclipsed the total NRL club tally.

                So what does this all mean?

                It means that actual bums on seats is only so much of a measure – as there are many bums not on seats each week who are in some way or other paid up. The ‘virtual bums on seats’ or VBoS’s.

                AFL wins by the more than the length of the straight – the AFL has lapped the opposition.

          • October 21st 2016 @ 1:20pm
            paulywalnuts said | October 21st 2016 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

            Lol. Given neither team appears to be running into capacity constraints, whatever point you think you’re making with percentages you’re most definitely not.

            • October 21st 2016 @ 2:43pm
              Karma Miranda said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

              The point I was making, is that neither is dominant, which refutes the claim of this article. Strangly, you seem to be conceding my point while completely missing it at the same time!

              • October 21st 2016 @ 3:13pm
                paulywalnuts said | October 21st 2016 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

                Oh, your point. Your actual point as far as I can tell is that over twice as many people go to Bulldogs games than Sharks games, even though crowds at Sharks games aren’t limited by stadium capacity. Thanks, but we already knew that.

                The point you seem to be trying to make is a rather juvenile attempt at sophistry. Good luck with that.

              • Columnist

                October 21st 2016 @ 5:04pm
                Simon Orchard said | October 21st 2016 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

                Not entirely sure of your point Karma, but to give you more context, the word ‘dominant’ is used in this article to honour the enormous amount of media coverage the AFL already garners, as well as the creative ways in which they are trying to expand on that.

                And the way they’re going, this level of media saturation will only increase as they push further into the traditional heartland of other sports.

                In a month when there hasn’t been as much sport on, the AFL has come up with a strategy that creates newsworthy content nearly everyday.

          • October 21st 2016 @ 2:08pm
            richo said | October 21st 2016 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

            haha, mate you win…NRL def a lot bigger than AFL..pmsl

          • October 21st 2016 @ 6:28pm
            Maxirius said | October 21st 2016 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

            This guy jests surely?

      • Columnist

        October 21st 2016 @ 11:01am
        Simon Orchard said | October 21st 2016 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        Haha I was born and raised in the Hunter Valley of NSW and have seen first hand what ‘just fine’ gets you. About 15,000 spectators on average at a Knights game or even less to watch the Jets, and both those teams have been cellar dwellers for years.
        Since when did ‘just fine’ become the goal anyway?

        • Roar Guru

          October 21st 2016 @ 3:17pm
          Mister Football said | October 21st 2016 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

          The AFL would like to thank Newcastle for providing Isaac Heeney.

      • October 22nd 2016 @ 9:02am
        Bill said | October 22nd 2016 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        The fact that origin is bigger than league tests says it all.

    • Roar Guru

      October 21st 2016 @ 4:46am
      peeeko said | October 21st 2016 @ 4:46am | ! Report

      Simon, i enjoy your articles on Hockey.

    • October 21st 2016 @ 7:12am
      Sandy B said | October 21st 2016 @ 7:12am | ! Report


    • October 21st 2016 @ 7:20am
      Mitcher said | October 21st 2016 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      In the immortal words of Zach de la Rocha: “Theres nothing proper about your propaganda.”

    • Roar Guru

      October 21st 2016 @ 8:05am
      Mister Football said | October 21st 2016 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      Just to clarify, while the $2.508 billion deal was signed last year, it actually starts in 2017, running to 2022 inclusive.

      One could also add the purchase of Etihad, to be completed in the next few weeks.

      • Roar Guru

        October 21st 2016 @ 8:24am
        Mister Football said | October 21st 2016 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        An AFR article:

        How the AFL will make money from other sports and events at Etihad Stadium

        Read more:

        • October 21st 2016 @ 9:17am
          Perry Bridge said | October 21st 2016 @ 9:17am | ! Report

          For those of us not subscribed – you’d better include some paraphrasing and extracts from the article!!!

          • October 21st 2016 @ 9:34am
            Maxirius said | October 21st 2016 @ 9:34am | ! Report

            Just hit escape as soon as the page loads

            • October 21st 2016 @ 12:51pm
              Perry Bridge said | October 21st 2016 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

              AH cool!

          • Roar Guru

            October 21st 2016 @ 3:18pm
            Mister Football said | October 21st 2016 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

            Just in case anyone needs it, here’s a small snippet:

            The AFL would certainly have noticed the two big soccer crowds in Melbourne over the past week, Saturday night’s A-League derby and the previous Tuesday’s Socceroos match.

            Not for the fact a rival sport that the AFL has never shown much inclination in helping was attracting huge spectator numbers, but more for the money-making opportunities from other sports and big events that await the AFL.

            The league this month struck a $200 million deal to take control of Etihad Stadium, purchasing the 55,000 seat stadium in the Docklands precinct from its consortium of owners that includes superannuation and investment funds nine years ahead of 2025 when it would inherit the facility for a token $30 – after a $30 million downpayment in 1999.

            It is a unique deal in the Australian sporting landscape, where all the big stadiums around the country are owned by local and state governments who usually outsource their operations to management companies.

            The AFL will take management control and also own the freehold land, and will formally take control of the venue in November. Already, league chief executive Gillon McLachlan has indicated his organisation will work to ensure the contracts for most of the five AFL clubs playing at the venue will become less financially burdensome.

            While that is hardly surprising, it also appears fears the AFL could move at first to make life difficult for tenants from other sports, namely the Melbourne Victory A-league club and the Melbourne Renegades Big Bash League cricket team, could also be unfounded.

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