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SANFL cements premier state league status
Authored by: Brett Northey on Wednesday, June 11 2008 @ 12:27 am ACST

With all due respect I see that as a bit of a problem for our game. Most people don't really care unless it's AFL. That's why it's hard to get attention for international footy, and that's why all the money is in the highest level of the game.

Fortunately second tier leagues do still continue at good levels, as well as amateur and country footy etc. They continue to make up the fabric of the game, but one wonders how long with so little attention paid to them. How do they attract sponsors, how do they keep players involved, how do they provide a place for the 99.9% of players that don't play AFL?

The U18's is important to see how well states are feeding players into the AFL, but if there is nothing beyond that then it would be very sad. One could easily imagine millions poured into junior development to scout and catch the best athletes and train them up for the AFL, without there actually being any culture or wider participation in football.

There has to be more to it than that. In fact in South Australia I would say football is less healthy than it was in the 1970s. Everyone had a team then, and each week your team would play someone else's. But as has been well documented, the drain to the VFL was slowly killing it, and the game started to wane. The Adelaide Crows were born of the SANFL to play in the AFL, and Port Adelaide also joined, and the game was revived to a great degree.

But is it as healthy as it was in its prime in the 1960s or 70s? I doubt it. Crowds are decreasing each year, there is saturation soccer coverage, drive past the local schools in Adelaide and there are grounds with footy goals and soccer goals, and grounds with just soccer goals, but never footy goals only. We're also seeing the slide in the Under 18s. They rarely beat the WA or Vic sides, and were even down at half time against Tasmania (a great footy state, but with a very small population).

I don't want to paint too grim a picture. Aussie Rules is growing rapidly in the biggest population zones of Australia, and remains very healthy in many other areas. But a key in new areas is to grow the foundation, to build strong well known local leagues. And the challenge for existing state leagues to maintain their relevance. If Tassie had a united strong state league 15 years ago they would have an AFL side now.

WFN will continue to shine a light (however large or small) on the wonderful world of footy, both at AFL level and below. Never forget the foundations.

Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

SANFL cements premier state league status
Authored by: Brett Northey on Wednesday, June 11 2008 @ 01:27 pm ACST

I should also mention that while flyinghigh's point that most players in state leagues are not likely to play AFL is generally true, there certainly are exceptions. Firstly quite a few of the SA U18s boys drafted each year have already played some SANFL level - guys like Carlton's Bryce Gibbs had a full year there.

But also slightly older recruits do get drafted from the state leagues - for the SANFL players like Alwyn Davey (Darwin to South Adelaide to Essendon), Matthew Stokes (Darwin to Woodville-West Torrens to Geelong premiership) and Trent Hentschel (Darwin to Woodville-West Torrens to Adelaide). For the VFL, Aaron Edwards went from Frankston to North Melbourne.

Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN