The AFL’s prosperity stands in stark contrast to the otherwise charred landscape currently occupied by Australia’s major sporting codes.
For while its competitors are plagued by a variety of ills – ranging from sandpaper to irrelevance – the best the AFL can muster is a lot of hot air over ducking tackles.
After all, this is a competition still basking in the goodwill generated from consecutive Cinderella premiership stories, and an off-season punctuated by the launch of AFLX and a bumper second AFLW instalment.
Not to mention that the AFL has flirted with its biggest single round crowd number in Rounds 1 and 3 this season ahead of what shapes as an epic Anzac Day double act.
Compare this to Australian men’s cricket, which remains in a state of shock following this summer’s ultra-humbling events in Cape Town.
Already engaged in a desperate fight for relevance in a contemporary action-packed sporting context, Australian Test cricket is now confronted with a national team in the grips of an identity crisis.
That the recent broadcast deal will soon sever cricket’s image defining relationship with Channel Nine and increase pay TV’s footmarks only heightens the sense of uncertainty surrounding the sport.
Yet, perhaps even more dire is the perilous predicament of Australian rugby union.
A code that has been flat-lining for years suddenly finds itself in a political minefield following its hitherto saviour, Israel Folau’s recent comments which have been criticised as homophobic.
Needless to say, Rugby Australia’s ultimate back down – framed by a likely perception of a desperate administrator bending to the will of its meal ticket under the guise of recognising religious expression – is attracting a huge amount of blowback, which is doing little to enhance the Wallabies and Super Rugby’s ailing brands in this country.
Unless one subscribes to the ‘no news is good news’ mantra in light of cricket and rugby union’s headline grabbing woes, Australian men’s football is veering dangerously close to sideshow status.
On the eve of the A-League finals series and less than two months out from the Socceroos kicking off their World Cup campaign in Russia, there is a real risk of tumbleweeds replacing footballs such has been the paucity of coverage of the round ball game in this country of late.
As previously detailed in this column, the Socceroos’ hopes of capturing local hearts and minds in the lead-up to world football’s showpiece event have been hijacked by a series of unfortunate goings-on within Australian football.
Not least of which was Ange Postecoglou’s untimely exit and the hugely uninspiring appointment of the – to date anonymous, at least in this country – Bert Van Marwijk, who has done precious little to boost the profile of a relatively no-name Socceroos squad.
Then there is the NRL, a code boasting such enmity towards the AFL that it would undoubtedly bristle at being cast as in any way worse off than its bitter rival.
And yet, while perhaps not experiencing quite the aforementioned level of doom and gloom, the NRL’s start to 2018 has been anything but smooth sailing.
The Sea Eagles’ salary cap mess, the unseemly Matt Lodge saga and the fact that the game has been mired in a penalty blitz have conspired to cast a pall over rugby league land.
So much so that NRL CEO, Todd Greenberg has been moved to launch the ‘talk the game up’ social media campaign and even fired a shot at ‘crisis merchants’ in a bid to arrest rising negativity in the game.
Against this backdrop, the AFL stands apart as a code in rude health seemingly feeding off the dysfunction of its rivals.
Whether the AFL’s immunity from the contagion afflicting this country’s other major sporting codes is lasting, there is little doubt as to its current status as domestic sporting kingpin and the vast amount of catching up to do by its competitors.