Mauritian AFL team fails to take flight – A Metaphor
Wednesday, September 16 2015 @ 03:08 pm ACST
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
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.