The AFL season kicked off in Sydney this weekend, with the Swans/Giants showdown at the old Olympic Stadium. Not that you’d have known in Sydney’s inner south, where I live.

OK, so who here has ever heard of Kevin Sheedy? Author's pic.

At my two local pubs, both of which are firmly in NRL Dragons territory, every single TV monitor was tuned to the live NRL match between the Dragons and Sea Eagles. I would sooner have ordered a Pimms and Lemonade than ask the bar staff to change the channel.

The AFL won’t despair over this. Their main target market isn’t the over-30s who’ll likely never pay any attention to the scrappy, unmanly sport from the southern states.

In the broad scheme, even $4 million recruit Israel Folau and the endless public appearances by GWS coach Kevin Sheedy (who this week admitted his role was 70 per cent coach, 30 per cent marketer) will matter little too.

Neither will the bottomless swag of free tickets handed out to bolster Saturday night’s crowd to a still-not-very-impressive 38,000 make much difference in the big scheme.

Ultimately, what will make or break the AFL’s second wave into Sydney will be junior players. If a new generation of Sydney kids grows up with AFL blood flowing through their veins, then the AFL’s dream of national conquest might – just might – materialise.

Sydney’s Henson Park is a ground better known as the home of the Newtown Jets, who last appeared in rugby league’s top tier in 1982. Today, the Jets bumble along in rugby league’s second tier competition. And the huge bowl-like expanses of Henson Park now have four white posts at either end.

For the last three weeks, the local council and junior AFL club the Newtown Swans, have put on AFL clinics for kids. At least three development officers have been in attendance at each event. They start at the very beginning.

“OK kids. So what’s it called when you catch the ball in AFL?”

About half the hands go up. “A mark,” says a kid in a Carlton jumper. Well, of course he’d know. There are always a few southern refugees with kids at these events. The blow-in parents give themselves away with their attitude and club regalia. They are the AFL’s unofficial foot soldiers, determined to make every northern heathen see the light.

Their kids can play too. In contested mark situations, they grab the ball every time. The Sydney kids are close to clueless. Positionally, they have no idea where to put themselves during the practice game. Some can’t even kick the ball. But all are keen.

AFL, and especially the watered down kiddie game of Auskick, is in many ways the ideal sport for kids. They run around, chase the ball, maybe even get a kick or two. In fact, they all get a kick. The development officers ensure it. There’s no tackling either, so that no girl or boy drops out of the school of hard knocks.

This is a parent’s dream. Mums love the lack of contact and Dads love the fact their kid will get a go. They don’t even keep score, so nobody feels like a loser. The competitiveness, or lack thereof, is a sore point for my five year old son, who learned to add six to any number after watching Dave Warner in the cricket all summer.

But the bottom line is that the game is played not in the name of competitiveness, but for the sake of a good run around. New recruits also get an Auskick pack complete with free footy, pump and a whole bunch of goodies. My kid is thrilled to be a Newtown Swan, and he’s a mad keen NRL fan who can’t name a single AFL player.

This is where the AFL is doing its most meaningful work, and where the billion dollar TV rights war chest is being most wisely spent. The AFL has 100 development officers operating in Sydney. One hundred employees dedicated to growing the game. Last year, almost 100,000 NSW and ACT kids tried the game for a period of at least six weeks. That’s serious bananas.

Not that any of this guarantees that today’s Auskick juniors will be tomorrow’s AFL fans. Soccer has long had the highest junior participation numbers in Australia, yet that has never translated to making the national competition any more popular than the National basketball League.

Neither is there the certainty that GWS will succeed or that the AFL will eat into rugby league’s stranglehold on the heart and purse strings of people in Sydney’s west.

This much we do know. Change happens through the impressionable young, not the stubborn middle-aged and old. You can’t watch the AFL at certain Sydney pubs today, but I bet you’ll be able to in 20 years, if not much sooner.

Twitter: @antsharwood

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    • Marcus says:

      12:05pm | 26/03/12

      “This much we do know. Change happens through the impressionable young, not the stubborn middle-aged and old.”

      Evidence of this claim ? History would seem to be against you.

      Once an entrenched “culture” is in place it is very hard to shift.

      New entrants and the young assimilate to whatever is the majority , and if new entrants trickle in slowly, then the founding culture can persist over time, even if over the long run they make up a tiny minority.

      This is why Americans speak English even though more of them are ethnically German or Italian.

      In linguistics and sociology, it’s known as the “founder effect.”

      And the same will be almost certainly be the outcome of the AFL’s venture into Sydney.

    • iansand says:

      12:58pm | 26/03/12

      I reckon they are relying on the nag factor.  Get the kids interested in AFL and they will nag their dads to go to a Swans match, or a Western Sydney Bogans game.

    • iansand says:

      12:58pm | 26/03/12

      I reckon they are relying on the nag factor.  Get the kids interested in AFL and they will nag their dads to go to a Swans match, or a Western Sydney Bogans game.

    • Simon says:

      12:03pm | 27/03/12

      I guess that’s why racism and sexism are still as rampant now as they were in the 40s and 50s, hey?

    • Bear of the Bear Patrol says:

      12:10pm | 26/03/12

      Same with any personal tastes or attitudes you can’t really change people as a rule so the AFL aren’t going to ‘convert’ anyone who’s grown up with another game but getting the kids will be the key. We won’t know for probably 20 years how much influence the whole GWS thing has made. In the last 15 years though League has lost ground, the top players are now on a pittance compared to the top AFL players and crowds, memberships and money in the each game are contrasting. Around the mid 90s it was pretty even but lack of expansion by the NRL and the Super League war have both damaged it. And while the AFL is going national the NRL is showing it’s Sydney-centric pettyness such as with the Storm salary cap issue. The AFL have actually thrown money at the clubs in ‘enemy territory’  to bring success. Maybe they should fine themselves following the NRLs logic! I’d like to follow NRL, but the d**kheads running it put me off.

    • Gus says:

      02:00pm | 26/03/12

      Beg your pardon, but the dominant culture can be turned. Not every AFL fan in QLD or NSW came from Victoria. I went to a rugby school, grew up going to Lang Park, etc, but became an Aussie Rules fan after going to as many different sports one year. AFL was the most spectacular and therefore most entertaining. RU was ruined by rule interpretations that cannot be seen from the stands, RL is bland, 5 tackles kick and the average RL fan is not impressive. AFL is a game that the fans can be involved in, rather than periodically. I’ve changed…

    • Bear says:

      03:47pm | 26/03/12

      Glad to be proven wrong Gus, welcome aboard!

    • Sydney AFL fan says:

      12:22pm | 26/03/12

      Great write up but I’d query your description of a 38,000 crowd ‘not-so-impressive’.  If judged on AFL standards it is a smaller crowd, but when compared to the 13,788 at a western Sydney derby between Penrith and Parramatta I’d suggest it was an impressive turn out.

      Sydney people don’t seem to attend events we can watch on TV

    • Steven says:

      12:34pm | 26/03/12

      @sydney AFL fan, I thought the same thing.  But maybe Ant’s cottoned on to the fact that 38,000 actually isn’t a decent crowd for the opening match of the AFL season. 

      The game most Vics will see (right or wrong) as the *real* opening for 2012 will be on Thursday night between Carlton and Richmond and should see in excess of 70K in attendance. 

      And the freeloaders will be minimal, too.

    • Matt F says:

      01:17pm | 26/03/12

      It depends on what criteria you’re using. Compared to the Parra/Penrith game the night before it’s a very good crowd. Compared to the AFL’s original 60k prediction which was then then reduced to 45k and then reduced to 40k it’s not so good.

      Overall it was a decent crowd. Not big enough for the AFL to crow about, but big enough so that the NRL can’t either.

    • PW says:

      02:11pm | 26/03/12

      Parramatta Stadium only holds 20,000, parking is horrendous and its a 25 minute walk from the station. The Parramatta team is in its worst form in decades, although they would have felt they had some chance in this one. Penrith are travelling a bit better but not all that much, and its supporters don’t travel well espcially on a Friday night after most of them have worked all day. Even so, this match, played at Penrth on a Sunday afternoon would have filled the place. The corresponding match last year had 16,000 on Friday night and the Penrith match 17,500 on Saturday night (then latter when the home side were in 13th place on the table). This is 80% and 88% respectively of the capacity of these suburban grounds.

      The Sydney Swans, when not going well, were getting far lower crowds than this.

      I thought the AFL would get a better crowd than it did, at the largest stadium in the city. I don’t think they are targeting kids in Penrith, Mt Druitt and Blacktown at all,or else they’d have made the home ground at Doonside. I think they are targeting serious supporters of the game , many of them Melbourne ex-pats, who will be able to see a game live every weekend. They are hoping the kids will be fooled that this is their team but kids are not that easily fooled. Nonetheless Aussie Rules is a fun game to play and if the AFL want to make some inroads they should be promoting the game in the schools and setting up some junior development. I don’t notice an awful lot of it going on at present in the area. They could certainly take a lot of the under-10 year olds from soccer.

      While Homebush might seem like the Western Sydney to those in Bondi or Manly, from Penrith it is three quarters of the way to the city. If Western Sydney is the Western half of Sydney, it starts somewhere near Rosehill Racecourse.

    • Kebabpete says:

      02:30pm | 26/03/12

      You’re right. In what is supposed to be the Rugby League heartland 14k is a poor reflection on the games audience. It didn’t help that most of the crowd also left by half time.

      The English Football Association had a similar problem some time ago so they banned the screening of any football game at 3pm on a Saturday. People were choosing to stay at home and watch Man United v Arsenal instead of going out to watch the likes of Sheffield Wednesday v Peterborough.

      It still works to this day but of course the TV networks found a way around it which is to have them schedule the big games at a different day/time. And thus, Super Sunday was born.

      Looking at the money that the AFL / NRL are expecting (demanding) though now I doubt they’d ever try anything that ambitious. If the TV money is there then who cares who attends in person.

    • Bear says:

      04:20pm | 26/03/12

      @PW “Parramatta Stadium only holds 20,000”, it should almost sell out every week then!

      “Penrith, Mt Druitt and Blacktown and Doonside” Have got to be some of the most awful burbs in any major Aust city, not sure why they didn’t target somewhere a bit better rather than basing in Blacktown. “Western Sydney’ covers pretty much anything from Balmain to Campbelltown so there’s lots of better choices.

    • Justin of Earlwood says:

      12:33pm | 26/03/12

      AFL management is just far more professional than rugby league. Has been for as long as I can remember. Going to a commission early on to reduce vested interests has been the greatest move.

      RL admin has been more about feathering nests than RL. I know someone who has 2 votes (as an individual) in the NSWRL board elections, yet hasn’t had any official capacity in the game for 15 years. And it’s a tiny voting pool too. The various RL boards (country, state, ARL) make the ALP look thoroughly democratic.

      To say the Newtown bumble along in the NSW Cup is unfair. The NSW Cup itself has been an under-supported joke for years (hopefully changing) & Newtown have been the only club who can consistently pull a crowd in the thousands & pride themselves on catering for that crowd. I’ve been to other grounds in the comp where they’ve run out of beer & food before kick-off!

      And Henson Park is one example where the AFL have ridden in on the coat-tails of rugby league. The recent upgrade of the ground & previous work on the surface have only happened because the Jets are the major tenants. The ground has never been used for cricket, so it could have been remodelled in to a rectangle years ago. Instead it’s remained an oval & the AFL has leached off league for once.

    • SM says:

      12:37pm | 26/03/12

      @bear

      “the NRL is showing it’s Sydney-centric pettyness such as with the Storm salary cap issue.”

      That is quite likely the most ludicrous comment I’ve ever read on here

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      03:03pm | 26/03/12

      Actually it’s quite right. A lot of people in Melbourne were put off NRL by the overly harsh penalties against Melbourne Storm over the salary cap. It was the best thing to happen to the AFL in years…...

    • PW says:

      04:13pm | 26/03/12

      In one way the Storm were victims of their own success. They manage to turn players unwanted by other teams into oiut and out champions, and they have been doing it with regularity since Bellamy has been the coach.

      BUT other teams have had success and found they had to pay their players more, thus causing some to be released. Rather than doing this, the Storm cheated.

      Personally, I think they got off very lightly. With the sale of illegality involved, they should have been kicked out of the comp for a couple of years.

      And really, the Storm are no threat whatsoever to the AFL. Their support base is pretty much ex-NSW or Queenslanders. Those AFL fans who do watch them would be treated to a top notch Rubgy League team. I just wonder how they are going to go when times get bad, as they surely will one day.

    • amy says:

      12:44pm | 26/03/12

      god..this sounds like some kind of “war” and trying to indoctrinate people onto your “side”......

      in fact thats what sport has always felt like..

    • Bear says:

      12:56pm | 26/03/12

      @SM No doubt Sydney-centric egoheads who hated Melbournes success will think so. Why not strip the Dogs and Brisbane of their flags if it’s so ridiculous?

    • SM says:

      01:19pm | 26/03/12

      @bear

      What “flags” bear?  In 2002 the Dogs were stripped of all competition points BEFORE the finals even started for cap breaches relating to 2000 - 2002 but won no premierships in that period,  and the Broncos had minor breaches recorded in 2001,2003 and 2007 but didn’t win the “flag” in any of those years either.  You don’t know what you’re talking about mate

    • Matt F says:

      01:21pm | 26/03/12

      The Bulldogs did get punished for salary cap breaches…......they just got caught before they won a premiership.  The AFL seem to take salary cap cheating quite seriously as well.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlton_Football_Club_salary_cap_breach

      The only reason they didn’t take premierships off Carlton is because they didn’t win any!

    • Bear of the Bear Patrol says:

      05:20pm | 26/03/12

      Canberra also. Sorry for using ‘flag’ then. What do you call it in meathead language? A title then. The whole concept of ‘stripping’ a flag is ridiculous anyway. You can’t change history. Unless it was stripped immediately and the Grand Final replayed and a new team awarded the title then it’s all a joke. Can’t definitively say those players could pass or tackle better because they earnt and extra $100 a week. It’s entirely different from an Olympic runner being on roids and being stripped, and even in those cases they rarely get stripped. The whole thing smacks of ‘anti- outsiders’ and wasn’t smart if they really want to grow the game.

    • Carn the Tahs! says:

      12:57pm | 26/03/12

      AFL will dominate the future of Aussie sports simply because the game is marketed and run so well. The administrating bodies are running an effective and successful business and this will ensure growth in the sport.

      I have to say, the marketing crew behind AFL have done a wonderful job in brainwashing all you southerners into believing its the greatest game on earth. Those guys could sell ice to Eskimo’s.

      On the other hand, the NRL is run by a bunch of boofhead ex-players and clueless marketing people, its no wonder its failing to gain traction in the popularity stakes. Add to that, most parents don’t want their kids playing such a tough manly game. The game also only seems to appeal to chronic bogans, much like the V8 supercars. All these factors explain its minimal growth in popularity.

      Rugby Union is clearly the better game, it’s just very few have noticed. Only one reason the game hasn’t launched into the stratosphere, the referees policing of the breakdown. Tidy that up and Union will be unstoppable.

    • Bear says:

      01:17pm | 26/03/12

      “Rugby Union is clearly the better game, it’s just very few have noticed.” Actually they have. Canberra is a good litmus test. The Brumbies have more support than the Raiders. No doubt a lot of people follow both games but there has been a shift. And I agree, Union is a much better game to watch.

    • gavin says:

      01:23pm | 26/03/12

      HA HA HA! Thats the funniest thing i’ve read in a while.
      With an open mind I attended my first ever union game last weekend when NSW lost to WA and it was a pittiful and boring event that pulled a worse crowd than the roosters get to the SFS.
      Its not NRL that needs to worry about AFLs grand plan but union. In the end union will be the game that is squeezed out of existence.

    • josh says:

      01:27pm | 26/03/12

      At least with Rugby Union (go the mighty Waratahs) the players know they can one day represent Australia. Unlike the AFL who name an Australian team every year and play…...... nobody.

    • SM says:

      01:48pm | 26/03/12

      @Carn The Tahs!

      “Rugby Union is clearly the better game, it’s just very few have noticed”

      Hilarious.  Why hasn’t anyone noticed?  Every League fan I know has seen union, and the votes are in… 

      Union’s greatest problem, outside of the fact that the game is a penalty-athon, kickfest, is that there is no tribalism. Fancy turning up every week to support the state? 

      Sydney is a league town, and whilst AFL and (possibly) soccer will have an impact years down the track, Rugby Union is terminal

    • Ben C says:

      01:50pm | 26/03/12

      @ josh

      You stand corrected. The All-Australian team plays the All-Ireland team in what is known as the International Rules series - a hybrid between Australian Rules and Gaelic football.

    • Lapun says:

      02:11pm | 26/03/12

      The “First, Finest and Fastest” game of Rugby is certainly not terminal.  It existed long before Rugby League starting from that famous act of William Webb Ellis, and it will still be around for a long time yet.  As one who knew both codes I can tell you the difference is in the education and qualities of the players.  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.

    • Carn the Tahs! says:

      02:14pm | 26/03/12

      Gav

      NSW vs WA last weekend?

      I don’t think so buddy. They played the Sharks and had a sterling win I might add.

      Union will be just fine thanks. The international support base is firmly in place. Other than soccer, Rugby is the biggest football code in the world. If you pulled your head out of the sand occasionally you would have noticed NZ just had a World Cup with 25 odd countries turn up. There were 75 odd nations that were unable to qualify but I’d say thats a pretty good turn out.

      Union may be No 3 in Australia, but its not going to squeezed out exsistance, you’re dreaming.

      If the AFL held a World Cup it would be Australia Vs Ireland with a soccer ball.

    • Huzzah says:

      03:25pm | 26/03/12

      @josh: Not being able to represent your country at Australian football isn’t viewed as detrimental to supporters of our football code.  I live in Queensland, but have always considered pulling on the Geelong hoops as a greater honour than representing Australia in any sport.  Funny as that may sound, my sporting heroes have been Cats, never Aussies.

    • David Worth says:

      01:02pm | 26/03/12

      “My kid is thrilled to be a Newtown Swan”

      Only in Sydney’s inner west latte-belt could that statement be uttered without a sense of family shame and foreboding .

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      01:12pm | 26/03/12

      Actually we live in the labneh belt, but the Newtown Swans, based in St Peters, is the closest team

    • David Worth says:

      01:18pm | 26/03/12

      Anthony, I was only havin’ a lend anyway.

      Keep smiling.

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      01:25pm | 26/03/12

      I just wanted to put the words “labneh belt” in a sentence!

    • Andy says:

      01:11pm | 26/03/12

      Are you serious Ant? 38,000 isn’t impressive? In a rugby state with one side that nobody cares about, 38,000 is very impressive.

      Don’t forget your silly game of rubgy boasted average crowd figures in 2011 of 16,000 compated to 36,000 at AFL games. Plus, try getting 90,000 to any NRL game ever!

      Have a look at NRL club memberships while you do your research too. You will find that the combined NRL membership figure last year was about 160,000 compared to over 700,000 in the AFL.

      You Sydneycentric people write like you know what you are on about yet have absolutely no idea. Rugby is garbage mate…get used to it.

    • Tim says:

      01:45pm | 26/03/12

      Lets see what GWS average for the season is. I’m betting it will be well below 20k. Even with the amount of free tickets given away, they’ll struggle.

    • PW says:

      02:24pm | 26/03/12

      Andy, they had 108,000 at the 1999 NRL Grand Final (won by the Melbourne Storm), and 104,500 at a double header the same year. If Sydney had a 120,000 ground it would be filled for the Grand Final every year, but at no other time. That’s why they don’t build such a ground.

    • PW says:

      02:32pm | 26/03/12

      Andy, you do understand that rugby and rugby league are two different games, don’t you?

    • Ando says:

      03:04pm | 26/03/12

      I find those who are obsessed with a sport they dislike weird and childish(from both sides of the fence). I am expecting Bill to add a similar comment to Andy’s he cant help himself either. I have my preference but I’ve gone to Soccer , NRL, Rugby Union and AFL. I’ve enjoyed them all and my kids can play whatever they want. Surely I’m not the only one.

    • Matty says:

      01:16pm | 26/03/12

      The founder of Aussie Rules was from NSW so the game is in one sense going back to its roots.

    • Josh says:

      01:16pm | 26/03/12

      So Ant is bemused that only 38 odd thousand turn up, even with free tickets to the GWS game. Even with the free tickets any Sydney NRL club would struggle to muster than many. In fact if you had an free entry sign out front of the SFS you wouldn’t get 38 thousand. 

      I agree with others comments re: the NRL management. Compared to the AFL the NRL it seems is run by a bunch of grizzled old men who still rely on their wives to cut the sandwiches while they sell the meat tray raffle tickets.

    • josh says:

      01:23pm | 26/03/12

      This game will be a failure in Western Sydney, which is funnily enough where I am typing this from. We didn’t ask for this team and I can tell you for a fact the emotions range from indifference to hatred. The sooner they admit it was a mistake and move the team to Hobart the better off we will all be.

      As much the hierarchy in the NRL is a joke, we will always remain a Rugby League town, the only other code that has a chance is soccer.

    • Edward T. Head says:

      01:48pm | 26/03/12

      The Swans struggle to make ends meet and the AFL are pumping millions into Sydney not to support the Swans but to actually further diversify their fan base.

      Watch the crowds drop off swiftly, the only question is how much money does the AFL have to piss up the wall?

    • SM says:

      02:05pm | 26/03/12

      @Edward

      Lots

    • PW says:

      02:28pm | 26/03/12

      If they have lots, they should have spent a bit of it putting the Giants home gound at Doonside, which is pretty much the heart of Western Sydney.

    • Edward T. Head says:

      03:04pm | 26/03/12

      SM - no pot of gold lasts forever. Shame they’ll nought to show for it at the end.

    • gobsmack says:

      02:24pm | 26/03/12

      The problem is that all those Islander kids are huge by the time they turn 10 so none of the other kids have a hope of bringing them down in a tackle.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      02:57pm | 26/03/12

      Even though the AFL might be targeting the young, I don’t think it will be as big in NSW as it is in VIC, WA & SA.  Reason being soccer (the real football) is still, to the best of my knowledge, the most played/most popular junior sport in most states. However you don’t see that huge a following of the A League. NSW/QLD will always be Rugby Leagie and teh other states will be AFL me thinks

    • PW says:

      03:36pm | 26/03/12

      Everyone knows this is because overprotective mums don’t want to let their little darlings get hurt playing contact sports. Once the kids are old enough to decide for themselves the participation rate for soccer drops alarmingly.

      Oh, and Wayne, all football codes are real. Even soccer.

    • GB says:

      03:09pm | 26/03/12

      What the…......? A semi-positive AFL story from Ant Sharwood?  Well I never….....

      Next thing you’ll be saying Melbourne is better than Sydney Ant. Then we’ll know that you’ve completely crossed over to the dark side.

      By the way, I never got to add my advice on which team you should choose. For an old Canberra boy, it should be a no-brainer.

      Ainslie’s favourite son Jimmy Hird’s Bombers Ant. Jump aboard, we’ve got plenty of room on the bandwagon and you’d be following a team on the way up.

    • Old Ainslie boy says:

      03:43pm | 26/03/12

      Just go for Ainslie, sod the Bombers. Here’s to the red, white and black!!

    • Leigh says:

      03:13pm | 26/03/12

      haha not very impressive 38000 - remind me of the NRL crowds again?

    • Northern Fan says:

      03:27pm | 26/03/12

      Get used to it.

      The AFL Junior development model is light years ahead of the other codes.
      You will see this week in and week out from now on as the other states have over the last 10 years.

      A nice aside might have been what the Swans do week in and week out and have for years up that way as well. But baby steps I guess, GWS are the FOTM and Sheedy is a genius, you will learn to love him.

      Oh and GO THE BOMBERS!!

    • PW says:

      04:29pm | 26/03/12

      The Swans have been in Sydney how long now? Must be 30 years easily. So how many fair dinkum Sydney-origin players, developed by the Swans, were in the senior team that played last weekend. In both Sydney teams for that matter?

      Now how many Sydney-origin players played first grade Rugby League at the weekend? I counted 20 from the Penrith club alone.

      What junior development model is it of which you speak?

    • RJ says:

      03:33pm | 26/03/12

      The main reason the A-League isn’t as huge as other codes is that there are so many competitions around the world that have been established longer and yes, carry more talent. The EPL, La Liga and Bundesliga are just a few that Australian’s can watch on Fox and even free to air sometimes. Not meaning to diss the A-League, but it doesn’t compare to these leagues and until it comes close, it will be hard to get the major support behind that NRL and AFL do. The Australian competitions are clearly the best or the only in the world for these codes. But it is slowly getting there…

    • Rob says:

      04:24pm | 26/03/12

      Plenty of parents are turning their young kids away from soccer in our area and onto Auskick for one reason - money. Auskick costs $60! Soccer is several hundred. We all want our kids to try their hand a sport and have some fun. Soccer has never been able to convert their junior memberships into anything. The AFL’s on a winner in my books.

    • I like League and Bricks says:

      04:36pm | 26/03/12

      Izzy needs to go back to the block head sport.

      To play AFL you need to have skill and to be able to move your body in many directions.

      There is only one Rugby league player that could make it as an AFL player and that would be Billy Slater.

      Thank god the real sport has started I was really getting sick to deaf watching the brain dead trying to look like they were playing a sport

    • Boxcar Willie says:

      05:25pm | 26/03/12

      “There is only one Rugby league player that could make it as an AFL player and that would be Billy Slater. ” Would love to see that. Even just for one game for the hell of it. Is there anything stopping a code swap in a pre season game? Worth a try!

    • Phil says:

      06:51pm | 26/03/12

      ‘There is only one Rugby league player that could make it as an AFL player and that would be Billy Slater’.

      I’m sorry are the kids of VIC, WA and SA more naturally talented than those of NSW or QLD?  Some of the comments on here are pathetic and extremely one eyed.

      AFL can boast about their crowds and extremely well run organisation; the NRL their TV ratings.

      Anyone predict an AFL takeover of NSW by AFL is deluded.  30 yrs in the making and the AFL tv ratings are still terribly poor.  The AFL have been blessed with having two very big markets in Sydney and Brisbane to brake into where they have been able to secure a niche following for their teams ... plain and simple.

      The new NRL TV deal will be substancial large and the balance for money spent on development will even out with the status quo across the states remaining the same.

    • Steve says:

      07:39pm | 26/03/12

      @PW 6 players from Sydney junior clubs on the Swans list, 1 Canadian and 1 Irishman from a total of about 40.

      This doesn’t include other players of NSW, QLD origin at other clubs of course.

      I daresay there are more NSW/QLD players getting around in the AFL than VIC, WA, SA origin players in the NRL. Makes sense given NSW and QLD combined population.

    • sunny says:

      07:41pm | 26/03/12

      ‘scrappy’ sums it up nicely. It ‘s like 15 monkeys ‘scrapping’ it out for a peanut. It’s ironic that the governing body is the most structured, yet on the field it’s the least structured!

    • sunny says:

      08:05pm | 26/03/12

      PS.. I like watching the Suns.

    • Slam Dunk says:

      09:29pm | 26/03/12

      Remember when the RAMS were trialed as a south Aussie Rugby ream? Not enough following for them at that time. Times have changed though and I think it’s great to have AFL spread it’s wings as it were. The different physical makeups between AFL players and AFL Players are obvious. More talented youngsters can make it in sport . GO ARL & AFL I say.

    • sunny says:

      10:12pm | 26/03/12

      Slam Dunk - I’m on my 13th beer but I reckon you’re on about your 15th - what you said doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But if you are barracking for both ARL and AFL then go you - I am fully with you. Both are good sports old sport!

    • Carl Palmer says:

      08:52am | 27/03/12

      “Clever AFL targets young hearts and young minds” Clever?  I’d call it common sense. When UK soccer players walk onto the pitch for their game, who’s hand are they holding?

    • vicball for losers says:

      02:15pm | 27/03/12

      western sydney junior participation 2010-
      Football - 66k
      Rugby League - 22k
      vicball - 6k

      enough said.

    • Cecil says:

      11:31pm | 27/03/12

      Fact 1: out of the major football leagues in Oz, NRL is the only one that does not have a national east-west footprint
      Fact 2: TV broadcast rights will only flow to truly national codes
      Fact 3: It is only a matter of time before the NRL ends up like the NBL. Once popular but now…..

 

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