Contributed by: Brett NortheyAfter what some might say was neglect, the mainstream Australian media have had a few reports recently about potential players coming into the AFL from overseas, and the growth of the game in South Africa. Perhaps Australian sports journalists are starting to realise that readers have an interest in footy beyond their own club.
The latest international story from the Age (in Melbourne) discussed the dramatic growth in player numbers in South Africa. It featured an interview with Steven Harrison, executive officer with Footy South Africa. The article reported predictions that within a year, there could be 3000 people in 50 teams playing the game in North West Province, making it one of the biggest footy regions in the world, outside of Australia.
It was also pleasing to read the AFL's game development manager, Dave Matthews, saying the AFL would further support the game there. "We need to consider the opportunity that presents itself now and not miss the opportunity by sitting on our hands. We want to embrace what the South African people have been able to demonstrate. The support doesn't always have to be financial. The sort of promotion that St Kilda are undertaking at the moment, we'll top that up with coach education, coaching seminars and promotional clinics over the next couple of years".
The article also covered the history of Australian football in the country. A very similar background can be read in an earlier World Footy News story, A Giant Looms in Africa.
Although the AFL are contributing around AU$20,000 per year, Matthews said the AFL's priorities were still in promoting the game in Australia, but the rate of growth could not be ignored. "South Africa is a very, very interesting possibility for the AFL. Longer term, you never know where this might end up," he said.The full Age story can be found here, on the Real Footy website, although may require registration.
World Footy News