From converting locals to converting grounds
Saturday, December 29 2012 @ 10:00 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Brett Northey
AFL South Africa has had an interesting journey over the last 4 years. In 2008 it was widely considered the darling of the AFL, receiving more funding than other nations, regular AFL-organised tours and leaping to 3rd in the International Cup with a controversial win over Ireland. Player numbers were booming, partnerships were being signed with mining companies, plans were tentatively in motion to set up footy development for Africa via a university program based in South Africa and an AFL exhibition match was scheduled for Cape Town in early 2009.
Then came the Global Financial Crisis, the postponement (after 4 years let's call it cancelling) of the exhibition match, and a decision to "consolidate" the recent growth. There was a slide to 5th at the 2011 International Cup and accompanying internal rumblings, the hoped for surge in AFL scholarships and rookies didn't eventuate, the South Pacific began to grab the international footy headlines and at the same time any good news from South Africa became exceedingly hard to extract.
It was starting to look a bit grim for footy in Africa and this author was "sharpening" his keyboard to write an obituary, not for the game as such, but for the shiny vision of AFL SA leading the international charge. Happily there have been stirrings of better news and assurances that the future is bright. As first evidence of this we report on a recent string of grounds being converted to allow Australian football to be played on them. We hope to follow this up with further positive proof of the game's health in the Rainbow Nation.
As all international footy nations will know, securing adequate ovals is a major problem for the growth of our game. AFL South Africa at least has had the advantage of cricket ovals being common across the country, although not always in places particularly helpful to their township-based programs. But the organisation recently told worldfootynews.com that they have recently had 4 grounds converted for football use, more than doubling their previous total of 3 (developed between 2008 and 2010). Further to that, at least two more are expected to be added in 2013, for a minimum total of 9. That might not sound a lot in the Australian context, but for all other footy nations that's an impressive stat.
The grounds were already existing, the main changes were to install Aussie Rules goal posts. More significant were the local agreements to make access available, as AFL South Africa's July Machethe told us, "This happens after agreements with local municipality and stadiums management to reach a central agreement. Three of the 8 grounds we have to pay to use them each time whereas others are free to use. However – AFL South Africa did pay for the installation/labour and buying of equipment/posts. Each year we allocate money in the budget to develop new grounds at identified areas".
Here's a list of 8 of the grounds, ranked by July with best first.
1. Newlands Cricket Ground – based in Cape Town in the Western Cape Province (International Standard Ground – only used for key fixtures i.e. when AFL-AIS group, AFL Clubs Matches come over here).
2. Senwes Cricket Ground – based in Potchefstroom in the North West Province (International Standard Ground – only used for key fixtures i.e. when AFL-AIS group, AFL Clubs Matches come over here). Also our offices are based here. We are also able to use this for our National Championships and hosting of teams coming from Australia (International fixtures involving South Africa).
3. Impala Cricket Ground – based in Rustenburg City in the North West Province. All purpose from matches, clinics, training and etc.
4. Mohadin Cricket Ground – based in Potchefstroom in the North West Province. All purpose from matches, clinics, training and etc.
5. Durban Cricket Ground - based in Durban City in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province. All purpose from matches, clinics, training and etc.
6. Mafikeng Cricket Ground - based in Mafikeng Town in the North West Province. All purpose from matches, clinics, training and etc.
7. Khayelitsha Cricket Ground - based in Khayelitsha, Cape Town in the Western Cape Province. All purpose from matches, clinics, training and etc.
8. Nyanga Cricket Ground - in Nyanga, Cape Town in the Western Cape Province. All purpose from matches, clinics, training and etc.
And in a teaser for further good news, AFL South Africa was able to confirm that participation is growing.
"The growth of our participation has happened and was great – in 2012 we registered 20256 unique participants including primary school kids, youth, open age players, coaches and volunteers. The game is growing tremendously in South Africa".
We hope to delve further into this in 2013 to find out where the growth is, whether there are any thoughts about expanding beyond 4 provinces, and whether leagues are now running more regularly than in the past, where organising travel has been a huge hurdle.
Impala Cricket Ground (Rustenburg)
Mohadin Cricket Ground
Durban Cricket Ground
Mafikeng Cricket Ground
Khayelitsha Cricket Ground