A comparison of AFL growth in non-heartland states

Aligee Roar Rookie

By Aligee, Aligee is a Roar Rookie


74 Have your say

    The AFL has had a presence in the northern states for decades, but it takes detailed analysis to see the relative success of these clubs.

    There’s an absolutely huge disparity in actual members and crowd averages between the two states which of course is directly influenced by form or lack thereof.

    The Suns have a better home crowd average than GWS, although GWS is hamstrung a bit by Manuka and its capacity.

    If we look below the AFL level we find that at grassroots level in 2017 across the Sydney basin there were 84 senior men’s and women’s teams in Sydney, 39 around Newcastle and 19 around Wollongong for a total of 142 senior teams.

    If we look at SE Queensland in 2017 it is quite similar. There are 146 senior teams playing from Tweed Heads through to the Sunshine Coast that is also probably a similar geographic spread to the Sydney basin.

    Working on a football to population basis. per capita SE Queensland would seem to be a fair way ahead and if we look at the state of senior community football in 2012 there were 92 senior teams in SE Queensland.

    Even without the Brisbane Lions being perennial finalists like the Swans and although the GC Suns have given a boost to football on the GC – which was always traditionally strong – it seems SE Queensland football has grown independently of the Brisbane Lions’ success or lack thereof.

    This sort of contradicts an argument by some who claim that lack of Swans success would see the crumbling of grass roots football below it.

    What has really boomed in SE Queensland is women’s football. In 2011 there were only six senior women’s teams, four under 18s teams and six under 15s teams, in 2017 there were 28 senior women’s teams, 18 under 17s, 22 under 15s, 31 under 13s and 20 under 11s. They are specific girls teams, although it would be fair to say many under 11s would probably play with the boys at that age, so under 11s may be not fully representative.

    Eight more clubs have been allocated women’s licences for 2018 according to an AFL Queensland article. Queensland – after Victoria – is probably the second strongest state for women’s football, a great achievement.

    At a junior level both areas have similar type numbers, Brisbane have around 8,000 juniors, Gold Coast claimed 2,950 this year, Sydney juniors claimed over 10,000 across its two zones (GWS and Swans) a couple of years ago, although these numbers are generally without Auskick club numbers – yes that word Auskick! – which are usually around 40 per cent of any clubs base.

    Sunshine Coast as well as Newcastle, Illawarra and the Central Coast all have varying numbers through their junior associations, with Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast having good growth over recent years.

    I suspect that a top four spot for either the Suns or Lions will see a grass roots interest spike in SE Queensland as it has in the last couple of years in Sydney because of GWS and the Swans. A decade ago SE Queensland was quite comfortably ahead of the Sydney area, but now particularly at junior level Sydney seem to be moving ahead.

    Combined Swans and GWS membership – 79,832*
    Combined Brisbane and GC membership – 33,027*
    *Figures at sixth September 2017
    Combined home crowd average Swans and GWS – 23,297 (no finals included)
    Swans – 33,398, GWS – 13,196
    Combined home average crowd Brisbane and GC – 15,059
    Brisbane – 16,455, GC – 13,663

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (74)

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:05am
      Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      The problem with this analysis is that it’s using untrustworthy figures

      • December 29th 2017 @ 9:23am
        Aligee said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        I wouldn’t bother if i didn’t think the numbers were fair dinkum, for EX Brisbane junior football puts out a annual report every year and since 1991 have supplied registered junior club players, graph is here.


        • December 29th 2017 @ 9:33am
          Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

          The AFL has been fudging especially in Sydney for over a decade

          • December 29th 2017 @ 9:53am
            Aligee said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

            Oh OK, now it is Sydney!, if you think claiming over 10,000 juniors across over 50 junior CLUBS in Sydney is fudging – go for it!

            The 11th Sydney AFL juniors annual report from 2016 claims 11,200.


            Feel free to find fudges ?

            • December 29th 2017 @ 12:48pm
              Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

              The AFL loves you, mr Gullible

              • December 29th 2017 @ 1:15pm
                AR said | December 29th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report


                So not only are the official figures in the AFL Annual Report false, but KPMG have concocted their auditing review as well.

                Seems everyone is in on it!

              • January 8th 2018 @ 1:09pm
                Manfred said | January 8th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

                Not so super is a RL tragic that played too long b4 the concussion rules were bought in

          • December 29th 2017 @ 10:14am
            Slane said | December 29th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            Seriously, mate. He is counting the number of clubs, teams and registered players. That is the people who play actual matches of football on the weekend. Not Auskick numbers, not school participation, not pet memberships or anything else you want to blame. This is an account of the number of people who play club football.

          • Roar Guru

            December 29th 2017 @ 11:21am
            Redb said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

            Rugby league you mean.

            • December 29th 2017 @ 12:53pm
              Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

              I’m guessing you believe the GWS numbers too?
              Have they stoped counting both legs
              I feel if the AFL works hard in 50 years Vanuatu and Guam are going to embrace the game

              • Roar Guru

                December 29th 2017 @ 1:11pm
                Cat said | December 29th 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

                In 50 years you will still be buying reams of tin foil and spouting off about things you have not a clue about. So sick of conspirat@rds like you whose whole post boils down to ‘I don’t like it so it cannot be true’. Either provide some sort of evidence (which like flat-Earthers you can’t) or just go away. Your shtick is boring.

          • December 29th 2017 @ 11:35am
            Alicesprings said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            Haha OK.

            The AFL Sydney and AFL Brisbane Juniors annual reports have been fudged for the best part of over 25 years?? I take it you have read them??

            What would their motive be?? Especially when some of these reports over the years have show declines. More recently they have shown increases.

            To their credit they actually release their annual reports unlike sports.

            • December 29th 2017 @ 12:47pm
              Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

              Don’t stop believing

              • Roar Guru

                December 29th 2017 @ 1:28pm
                The_Wookie said | December 29th 2017 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

                or you can keep believing the league press about afl figures. Because that aint going to be biased at all.

                Yes, there was some issues with participation figures reported for AFL Sydney in 2011 & 12 – there was a report issued then and those figures were addressed afterward.

          • Roar Rookie

            December 30th 2017 @ 1:41pm
            Antony Pincombe said | December 30th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

            This is what you say. Prove it. Club participation rates are proven and have to be by registration records. One article where Tomt Harley got the figures wrong about area participation that is all. He gave the Stydney figure instead of the local Inner west figure. you are great at making statements but not so good about backing them up.

            You don’t seem to understand that for official figures to be proffered by an organisation like NSW/ACT AFL the state government would have to approve the figure by witnessing the registrations. This is how state sporting bodies get their funding. If they can’t prove the figures the state government does not fund their sport. The sports media in NSW is generally anti AFL so if figures are wrong there will be huge furore in the media. so don’t tell me they are fudging their figures.

            By the way why don’t you be honest and tell all of us here what code you follow and have you got anything to do with the running of any part of that code including at junior level. Please declare your sphere of influence and your involvement in the other codes. The other thing is put up or shut up, proof, proof, proof!!

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:23am
      Kangajets said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      There will always be peaks and troughs with playing numbers of afl in nsw , but it seems fairly popular at a junior level for sure and women’s foity too.

      The west Sydney crowds are the only thing I don’t see increasing.

      Not that afl would ever consider it , but they would have better crowds if they located the giants in Canberra or Newcastle rather then Homebush .

      • December 29th 2017 @ 11:29am
        Alicesprings said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Short term the GWS would have done a lot better in Canberra but the AFL isn’t planning for the short term. I take it you are aware how many people live in Western Sydney?

        Newcastle!?? Maybe in 50yrs. Every now and then Newcastle gets mentioned when discussion of BBL expansion comes up. If there’s a cricket ground to be built I’m sure the AFL would be there dreaming and scheming.

        • December 29th 2017 @ 2:03pm
          Kangajets said | December 29th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

          Alice spring

          Don’t be so condescending
          It’s people like u that give afl such a bad name in nsw ffs
          I’ve lived in nsw for 42 years. And played coached afl. I know my stuff ok

          Yeah mate Western Sydney has abt 3-4 million people . The demographics of Western Sydney means it’s going to take 50 years to get a crowd if ever .

          • December 31st 2017 @ 5:47pm
            republican said | December 31st 2017 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

            …….spot on.
            While the AFL are throwing good $’s after bad to massage their commercial ego in respect of GWS. they patronise both Tassie and Canberra, telling us we are not commercially viable.
            The AFL’s double standard is breathtaking to say the least………..

            • January 8th 2018 @ 1:13pm
              Manfred said | January 8th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

              As if on cue republican with his anti GWS but push for Canberra/Tassie team – you are so dull

        • December 29th 2017 @ 4:24pm
          Alicesprings said | December 29th 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

          Gees mate – take it easy – were on holidays after all!

          What in particular do you disagree with??

          Are you based in Newcastle?? Do you think the city could realistically support an AFL team in say 20years time??

          • December 29th 2017 @ 5:49pm
            Kangajets said | December 29th 2017 @ 5:49pm | ! Report


            Absolutely Newcastle could support a team in less then 5 years time and would get better crowds then the giants

        • December 31st 2017 @ 5:41pm
          republican said | December 31st 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

          ………Canberra boasts the fastest growing satellite in the nation, i.e. Gungahlin.
          The population forecast for Canberra based on current growth models, is more than 500k within the decade.
          You do not require a large demographic to ensure success, unless you are only using television as your criteria.
          Melbournes Population is close to 5 mill, yet the concoction of the tele team i.e. the Storm hasn’t raised the profile of Rugby League in real terms, while they have been successful on and off the field…………

          • January 2nd 2018 @ 10:22am
            clipper said | January 2nd 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

            I would equate the Storm more to GWS than the Swans. I think, even after continued success, GWS will still be a niche market, much like the Storm. It will be interesting to see what would happen if they dropped out of finals contention for a few years.

        • December 31st 2017 @ 5:48pm
          republican said | December 31st 2017 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

          ………..booming hey.
          I would like to know more, sincerely please……….

    • December 29th 2017 @ 8:27am
      RandyM said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Queenslanders will get behind a team that boasts Queensland born and bred players. The Lions golden era was a good time for AFL in QLD but just about all of those star players were from states down south. Simon Black I think was the exception.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 8:59am
        Perry Bridge said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        RandyM –

        The irony is that many of the Queensland born and bred players in the system didn’t try to return home.

        The Lions did include Voss and Akermanis who had moved up there as young kids and grew up there and played all their junior/youth footy up there as locals.

        My club North Melbourne has a number of born and bred Queenslanders on our list. What would be great would be to see at least once every 4 years a real SoO carnival such that Queenslanders such as yourself could get behind the QLD SoO side and perhaps appreciate more where the locals are playing.

        Ironically of course – soccer fans don’t seem to have issues about where a player was born/bred. This notion is something the NRL tries to push as a point of distinction to the challenge of AFL. However – it’s much easier for the NRL given that it’s a 2 state player pool and development system into effectively a 2 state competition (the Storm in most respects a transplanted QLD side).

        • December 29th 2017 @ 11:48am
          Alicesprings said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          The NRL strength is also its weakness. Surely they have to get a draft going eventually – hard to see expanding to Perth being viable otherwise.

          Would like to see some stats on how many players from outside of NSW/ACT and QLD are playing in the NRL at the moment. Conversely there are almost 100 players from NSW/ACT and QLD playing in the AFL.

          • December 29th 2017 @ 12:56pm
            RandyM said | December 29th 2017 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

            there is a little country called New Zealand that supplies a pretty large proportion of players. There’s some from the UK and some from the Pacific Islands.

            I really don’t know the numbers from the other states, definitely not as high as what the AFL has in NSW/QLD.

            • December 31st 2017 @ 5:54pm
              republican said | December 31st 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

              ………League is only niche in NZ but they put us to shame in respect of talent despite its lowly status.
              Over 30% of the NRL’s players are Kiwis while Qld holds up the Aussie diaspora.
              The code is actually dying in NSW and this is why many NRL clubs are scouting for talent across the ditch.
              I would argue that including a sovereign nation to your domestic leagues, i.e. NZ, compromises respective codes at the GR, while the Warriors are a basket case commercially anyway and yet the NRL perseveres with them…………

              • January 2nd 2018 @ 10:25am
                clipper said | January 2nd 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

                I would argue that many of the 30% are Polynesian heritage, which is also holding up league grassroots in Australia from declining further as well.

            • January 8th 2018 @ 1:15pm
              Manfred said | January 8th 2018 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

              Most of the pacific islanders in the RL grew up In Aus – RU is the big game in the islands and they tend to play in NZ or Europe.

          • December 29th 2017 @ 2:21pm
            Kangajets said | December 29th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

            Nrl biggest enemy is it’s need for bigger Sized players .

            The result being soccer and Afl are both attacking record numbers of juniors in nsw, and rugby league is struggling in juniors across nsw.

            • December 29th 2017 @ 4:43pm
              Alicesprings said | December 29th 2017 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

              Ha Kangajets at least I’ve got 1/3rd covered!

              Sounds like your due a visit to the NT! Not everyones cup of tea but we follow all codes up here – one of the reasons we enjoy living here.

              In re to juniors playing weight its an obvious issue that still needs to be resolved. Believe it or not there is a massive NZ expat community up here and we have the same discussions around how to best accommodate the larger juniors.

              • December 31st 2017 @ 6:34pm
                republican said | December 31st 2017 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

                ……the NT has by far, the largest support for the indigenous code in the country…….

            • December 31st 2017 @ 6:14pm
              republican said | December 31st 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

              ……..very true.
              This is also why NZ does so well at both Rugby codes, courtesy of the Maori……….

          • Roar Rookie

            December 30th 2017 @ 1:50pm
            Antony Pincombe said | December 30th 2017 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

            Every time the NRL looks to expand to out of NSW & Qld they stuff up. The only exception being Melbourne Storm. But Melbourne is a sports obsessive town that would watch two flies running up a wall if they thought it would be fun. But other than that expanding was not a good look last time. Getting kids to play the bone busting game is also going to be hard as parents are going away from that sort of game.

            • December 31st 2017 @ 6:09pm
              republican said | December 31st 2017 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

              …….to be sure they are.
              The Rugby codes will continue to struggle in attracting GR here, while Soccer will eventually dominate not only at the GR but also at the elite domestic tier in this country I believe, with the ever changing influence of our migrant diaspora.
              Our indigenous codes strength is in its cultural and domestic DNA so in order to remain relevant, it must never compromise this by trying to be something it isn’t i.e. going pseudo international.
              The game will continue to capture a large patronage as well as command the commercial market required to compete across a nation with a fast growing population, if it continues to build on this distinct domestic trait.
              To pitt itself against competing codes of dubious status, in an essentially saturated and commercially hamstrung pseudo international market, would dumb the code down and lead to its ultimate undoing……….

              • Roar Rookie

                January 2nd 2018 @ 11:15am
                Antony Pincombe said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

                I don’t believe soccer will be as successful as people seem to think even though most of the immigrants are from Soccer background. Most our immigrants originally came from Soccer background, that is Great Britain, Italy, Greece etc. Either that or they came from RL or RU background, New Zealand or the Islands. Yet none of those sports have overtaken AFL. In fact while grassroots Soccer is suffering under the prop up the A League policy AFL suffers no such thing. The A League attracts an average of 14,000 people per game. The junior footy subsidise the A League clubs through junior player payments.

                Parents are getting a bit sick of paying thousands every year and getting nothing for it. Not only that if a player reaches 14 yo and the coaches don’t think they have the chance to make the A League or similar they are basically not given game time. In soccer only the so called potential star players get any time put into them. They stop developing players well before their bodies stop developing. In AFL we don’t do that. A gangly awkward kid could end up developing into a star ruckman or key forward when they start developing a body.

                The switching of codes or sports at about 13 or 14 away from soccer is quite large. In fact AFL has benefited greatly from this policy of trashing players who soccer Coaches think have no talent and are not coordinated enough for the game at 13/14. So has basketball recently.

                Add to that the infighting and corruption that pervades Australian Soccer and Soccer worldwide and Australian people are getting a little suspicious of the sport. The recent fight between Lowey and the clubs is not helping. The sub standard football in the A League is not helping either as most clubs are too broke to be able to attract the real marque players. So they get Has Beens. The wanderers are broke and if something doesn’t happen soon they will be foreclosed upon. Several other clubs are in a similar state. The television deal doesn’t help the clubs and it is bad because nobody watches the a League on TV. They rate the lowest of any television sport during their season.

                So to sum up I can’t see them taking over footy in this country. Not in 10 years, not 20 years. They don’t have a good enough infrastructure. They are divided. They don’t have solid, successful, financial clubs. They don’t have good junior programs. They charge far too much at a junior level. They don’t encourage developing youth, they can them. They don’t put money into junior development programs, only corporate sponsors do that and even then it is double ended.

              • January 4th 2018 @ 11:04am
                c said | January 4th 2018 @ 11:04am | ! Report

                Sir Frank P. ‘Lowy’, AC

      • Roar Guru

        December 29th 2017 @ 11:22am
        Redb said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        It was more about winning for the Lions than how many QLD players.

      • Roar Guru

        December 29th 2017 @ 11:59am
        Cat said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        Does anyone honestly scroll through player profiles to see where they were born before deciding whether to barrack for them?
        I follow Geelong, I don’t ‘like’ Harry Taylor, Corey Enright or Dan Menzel less because they aren’t from Victoria initially. They are Geelong Cats players. That is what matters to me. I’m not upset the Cats draft Tim Kelly because he is from WA, I am excited because he fills a need.

        This whole ‘I’d follow a te@m more if there was more players from my state’ is such a load of excuse making BS.

        • December 29th 2017 @ 1:07pm
          RandyM said | December 29th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

          Most NRL clubs fund and develop their own juniors, it’s not done centrally like in the AFL, hence no draft. Different system, different culture.

          • Roar Guru

            December 29th 2017 @ 10:28pm
            Cat said | December 29th 2017 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

            Good thing this is on the AFL tab talking about AFL teams then, hey?

            • January 8th 2018 @ 1:16pm
              Manfred said | January 8th 2018 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

              Yes funny how rarely clubs under 20 NRL players end up playing at their club as adults. And the under 20 players come from all over the place so much so that Sydney City origin had to fudge the residency for the City Country game.

      • December 31st 2017 @ 5:42pm
        republican said | December 31st 2017 @ 5:42pm | ! Report

        …..the days of tribalism, loyalty, local born and bred et al are long gone sadly……….

    • December 29th 2017 @ 9:58am
      Aransan said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

    • Roar Guru

      December 29th 2017 @ 11:36am
      Redb said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:36am | ! Report

      Take the Swans out of those averages and really there is not much difference between GWS and Lions/GC. Swans members/crowds have been built on sustained success (like Hawthorn & Geelong). So a good foundation and now a very strong sustainable AFL club.

      The Suns is a huge missed opportunity for the AFL, if they hadn’t derailed with gifted draft picks, Ablett,etc they would be propping up QLD numbers. Gold Coast out of the 4 areas is traditionally the strongest at grass roots level. The Lions likely require propping for some time. Reckon they should go after Alastair Clarkson and rebuild the footy dept and culture.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 2nd 2018 @ 11:24am
        Antony Pincombe said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:24am | ! Report

        The suns drafted dreadfully and the Gary Ablett move was stupid. He has always been a receiver and still is. They keep saying is he or Franklin the best player in the AFL. I wish they’d get over it. I have always thought Ablett wasn’t even fit to do up franklin’s bootstraps. The suns needed a Marquee player who would give them a profile but all they got was the bible basher. God never lifted any footy team’s profile except Cats.

        What Suns should have done was draft well instead of building a team around an outside receiver.

        • Roar Guru

          January 2nd 2018 @ 11:31am
          Cat said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:31am | ! Report

          The best clearance player in the league is an ‘outside receiver’? Some people …

    • December 29th 2017 @ 12:01pm
      Milo said | December 29th 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

      Thanks Aligee

      What struck me as overwhelmingly positive about those numbers (if we take on face value) in SE Qld is the enormous growth in womens’ footy and participation therein in the six year period 2011-2017. The point being that sooner or later it seems very likely that growth will translate into greater participation by juniors (both boys and girls) in the near future as those women go on to have and raise children.

      Regardless of the region or area, and it should be all over, the AFL is right to plug so much time, effort and money into the growth of the women’s game. It started a fair way back from soccer but its coming on now and long may it continue to grow. The AFL has finally acknowledged the hugely critical part that women play in both the playing itself and their future influence on that participation in our great game.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 2:18pm
        Kangajets said | December 29th 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

        Same massive growth of women’s footy in Newcastle and the central coast and hunter region too .

        • Roar Rookie

          December 30th 2017 @ 2:30pm
          Antony Pincombe said | December 30th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

          The Black Diamond League is incredibly strong.