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Mauritian AFL team fails to take flight – A Metaphor

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Tijs Lejeune is a Year 12 student in Canberra. For his English subject he was asked to write a paper which reflected his area of sporting or community interest – in this case his desire to learn more about the multicultural and international aspects of Australian Rules football - recognise a challenge faced by the code in its growth and look at possible solutions.

 

Tijs’ use of the metaphor of the extinct Dodo on Mauritius is a powerful metaphor for the negative growth of our game if suitable care is not taken. Whilst Tijs expresses some views which are not necessarily endorsed by World Footy News or the broader AFL, it is a very interesting take on a possible future of our great game.

 

 

I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, but I look at how the dodo became extinct and worryingly I see some similarities with the AFL. Factors like: undisturbed for so long on the island of Mauritius, no natural predators for so long, restricted to a small inhabitable area and the inability to escape when danger confronted it.

 

To say that the AFL will face a similar fate is unlikely but it cannot rest on its haunches and expect things to sort itself out. Rugby League, through its international presence in the UK, Europe and Pacific nations, has external exposure that is always there. Tie in with this the global juggernaut that is soccer, and the continued success of Australia’s ‘A-League’ and the AFL faces some problems that it cannot run from.

 

The dodo lost its ability to fly because there was no need to use it for such a long time; the AFL has absolutely nowhere to run with its stronghold limited to Australia and under threat.

 

I would like to recall something I heard a few years back, it resounds heavily in my ears and the echo is creating a distorted image in my head. The words of former AFL Chief Andrew Demetriou when he was questioned on the international future of the AFL, “We are unashamedly an indigenous code. We don’t purport to be anything else.” I can’t speak for every international expansion enthusiast who would love to see the code go international but I had to take a step back and argue, why would the AFL take this approachω There has been unprecedented growth at grassroots level for Soccer, and their noisy neighbours down the road at NRL house continue to be a thorn in their side. The popularity of fixtures such as State of Origin and the odd friendlies between Soccer powerhouses upon our shores may not be a short-term problem, but if grassroots participation is anything to go by and the demand for it increases then there will be a future problem for the AFL.

 

Ultimately, the best way to ensure the safety of the AFL is to expand globally and attract more fans and supporters to love Australia’s iconic brand. This has been done so far at a very minimal and grassroots level with bodies in the United States, Europe, Asia, South Africa, the South Pacific and New Zealand. The results so far are not fruitful, but the seed can’t grow unless it’s been planted, thus the AFL has set itself to reap the rewards in 50 to 100 years time. So far the AFL’s international agenda consists primarily of an annual Anzac Day fixture in Wellington, annual screen testing on gifted athletes in New Zealand, United States and Ireland, plus its annual grants to a few overseas bodies and support for the International Cup. AFL games in Macau, China and potentially Singapore are front of the 2016 agenda.

 

If I could sit in Gillon McLachlan’s seat at AFL house and utilise the largest war chest in Australian sport, I would firmly put it into AFL growth offshore. There needs to be an expanded global presence with more international exhibition matches so that the world can witness the sport that we have to offer. I know it’s an expensive exercise, but the AFL should take control of one area, let’s say South Africa, and just pour the resources and set yearly plans, until the day where we can see possibly an u18 team coming to Australia and challenging the best kids in the AFL National Academy.

 

The AFL has the resources to succeed on the international stage, it just needs to know where to put them and how best to utilise every cent. Who knows, maybe one day in around 100 years time we could see the North Melbourne Football Club drafting a 215cm ruckmen out of its academy team in Senegalω The safety net for the AFL in its current situation is the action being taken now to ensure its future is secure. Such action wasn’t taken to ensure the survival of the dodo bird and unfortunately its tragic end serves a reminder to AFL House of the challenges this sporting code faces.

 

Anyone wishing to pass on any feedback to Tijs can do so via the comments section of this article and we will ensure Tijs receives your comments.

 

 

  

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Mauritian AFL team fails to take flight – A Metaphor | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mauritian AFL team fails to take flight – A Metaphor
Authored by: Harley Vague on Wednesday, September 16 2015 @ 08:49 pm ACST

One problem the AFL faces IMO w.r.t. Australian Football outside of Australia is the education of Australians of the situation, In very simple terms, knowledge = interest = money, so it is very encouraging to hear from a young Australian on the subject. Domestically the AFL probably faces the most competitive sports environment in the world, yet on on per capita basis it has produced the most outstanding KPIs. Significantly, the AFL has realized that it cannot stagnate and has invested heavily to promote Australian Football to reach it's maximum potential within Australia. This successful domestic blueprint is now being used O/S. It's a costly investment in grassroots at one level and AFL games at the other. Currently NZ is the major beneficiary and we are watching all developments there closely.

Mauritian AFL team fails to take flight – A Metaphor
Authored by: Cam Homes on Friday, September 18 2015 @ 02:12 pm ACST

Harley, again you've managed to whack another nail on the head when it comes to developing and growing Aussie Rules internationally, how true it is that the vast majority of Australians have no idea that footy is played outside of Australia. Educating the average Aussie footy follower about what is actually happening around the world is so important.

If I was given a dollar every time when I mention that I "attempt" to write stories for WFN and then have to explain that there are at least 30 to 35 countries across the world that have more or less stable and regular local Aussie rules competitions and am told "Gee! I didn't know that" or looked at as if  I'm "bullsh--ting" I could almost have paid for one of the Laos Elephant fellows to come to play at Wanneroo AFC in WA. Might not have been able to get him home again :-) tho'.

Those Aussies that I speak to, who are aware that Aussie Rules is played elsewhere, usually have the view/idea that it is largely groups/clubs of expats getting together for footy, a BBQ and a beer, (not necessarily in that order either) and convincing them that there are many leagues and clubs all over that are actually not necessarily the case, especially in Europe, USA, Canada and Oceania, is not an easy task.

As an example, only recently when Hideki Myasaka, President of AFL Japan asked WFN to publish their "Invitation to contest the Japan Cup, 6th August. WFN" I privately suggested that he try sending invitations directly to amatuer and country leagues across Australia, and forwarded the email addresses of the two local leagues near me, namely the Whyalla League and Spencer Gulf League, so he could at least make a start.

Hideki duly did as suggested and I know he received a reply from the Whyalla League as he forwarded it on to me and in it the Whyalla League president expressed utter surprise that Aussie Rules is played in Japan, but at least promised to notify the clubs about the invitation. He also noted that given more advanced notice, acceptance of the invitation could well be considered in the future. (possible end of season trip alternative to Bali or such).

I think the Wanneroo/Laos Elephants exercise is an effective way in educating Australians about footy internationally and at the same time the value in growing the game in Laos is immeasurable.

Just imagine 50 Australian leagues/clubs repeating that excercise with players coming from France, Sweden, Croatia, Japan, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, India, Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, Italy the list goes on, and the hundreds, even thousands of Aussies learnimg about the game being played overseas and what a huge boost in growing the game back in the home countries when those players return home and relate their experience and pass their new found knowledge onto the folks at home.

The mind boggles!!!!!!   And then do it again next year!        WOW!!!

 

Mauritian AFL team fails to take flight – A Metaphor
Authored by: Harley Vague on Friday, September 18 2015 @ 10:56 pm ACST

Frustratingly the solution is simple. All players, clubs, leagues, umpires and associations are linked electronically to some degree if only from a league to club presidents.. If somebody took charge to develop a hierarachy then information could be broadcast quickly, easily and at no real cost. Anything from rule changes and insurance to mouthgards for players; Leagues could broadcast patways, representitve selection or camps etc But the league could broadast it's own news including overseas developments in much the same way it releases press statements now. It would be an extremely simple matter to offer invitations from overseas clubs or facilitate any other interactions. If all overseas clubs were also linked electronically then they could similarly invited to Australia. When I say "linked electronically" it's as simple as an email list and a send button.
Imagine by 2017 that the AFL can send an email that travels to every state league then to every affiliated league and then to each club and then to each player, umpire an official; that the email is headlined "2017 AFL International Cup" All of a sudden you have the attention of how many people?

Mauritian AFL team fails to take flight – A Metaphor
Authored by: Harley Vague on Saturday, September 19 2015 @ 11:37 am ACST

To return to Tijs paper and there is the subject of lack of information and the supply of skewed information. We have long since lost the local dissemination of news by the local tabloid to have been replaced by national newspaper and national television interests which find it expedient and strategic to confine news distribution to what serves their pecuniary interest. Contrast the news of today with that of over a century ago. The SMH used to cover Australian Football in Sydney with the same (or more) gusto than RU. The public in Austalia and NZ would flock to games of (Colonial) football against the English because of the coverage in newspapers. Today the power base has largely moved to Sydney and thus a lot of Tijs sentiments reflect this and it is important to address this broad misrepresentation . Yes, NRL as a professional sport is important and we constantly hear about the threat of soccer but the reality is that soccer dominates the participation numbers in NSW only. The "threat" is to NSW and to the dominant professional code, RL and their participation numbers aren't flash. The threat is inaccurate reporting. Go to the ABC and I've found NRL finals promoted nationally but not the AFL finals. Similarly I've found the Swan's final missing from the NSW headlines, yet AFL attendances were multiples greater in magnitude. There is little fuss made when 90,000 attend a season AFL game. Maybe we are to used to this.