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How healthy is suburban and country football?


binman
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During the  VFL grand final, the commentators mentioned that Mitch Johnson (i think) had worked really hard to break into the Sharks side and that when he wasn't playing for the Sharks was playing for Pakenham (i think). They also discussed the fact Crossley was a carer and Munro was a paramedic. 

On the back of those comments, i had a number of reflections:

  • That is a crazy level of commitment - all three players , but travelling to and from Gold Coast to vic to play footy is  hard core
  • There must be hundreds (thousands?) of players who are really close to AFL standard, but for whatever reason (choice, luck, not quite good enough etc) have not made the jump to that level
  • Any elite sport is built on a foundation of community, amateur and semi pro participation - and AFL is no different
  • However, unlime soccer or bball, AFL can only draw on a homegrown pool, with the exceptions of Irish imports, and that pool is necessarily thin given footy competes with rugby x 2, bball and soccer in terms of a pathway to playing a professional team sport in Oz
  • Without that foundation, there is no AFL - at least not in the elite sense

I know all of that is not news to anyone,  but it occurred to me that i don't really have any sense how healthy suburban and country footy is. 

Demonland has lots of posters who are involved in some way in suburban and country footy, be that as a player, coach, admin - or just fans of a local club. 

My question to those who have an informed view is, how healthy is suburban and country football?

 

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Can’t speak for every country league, but those in charge of AFL Gippsland are about as incompetent as it gets. It over saw and ensured the slow death of the Alberton Football League through their inaction, and the now amalgamated Mid Gippsland League is starting to head down the same path, with several clubs wanting to exit the league due to a number of factors management related.

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1 hour ago, Demon Disciple said:

Can’t speak for every country league, but those in charge of AFL Gippsland are about as incompetent as it gets. It over saw and ensured the slow death of the Alberton Football League through their inaction, and the now amalgamated Mid Gippsland League is starting to head down the same path, with several clubs wanting to exit the league due to a number of factors management related.

Unfortunately you don't hear anything positive, hasn't AFL taken over the administration of most country leagues?

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6 hours ago, Demon Disciple said:

Can’t speak for every country league, but those in charge of AFL Gippsland are about as incompetent as it gets. It over saw and ensured the slow death of the Alberton Football League through their inaction, and the now amalgamated Mid Gippsland League is starting to head down the same path, with several clubs wanting to exit the league due to a number of factors management related.

Now now

Don't be nasty

Afl gippsland are extremely competent and excellent at what they provide for all the money they get

 

 

Edited by biggestred
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The level of fitness required at the AFL level is where the talent issue is coming from. Only at the AFL level can players train full time, so if you don't make the cut at 17 years old the gap is only going to get wider the more time that passes. 

I believe that the AFL needs to create a second national competition that it funds like a 19th AFL team (e.g. same amount of distributed funds as 1 club). Keep it to 12 teams, ask state league clubs to apply and pick those with the best facilities, balance sheet, and future plans. Could potentially accept bids from consolidated teams like Canberra or Darwin where no AFL team exists.

Keep AFL reserve teams out of it. Set a salary cap of $3 million with no salary floor, but teams can only pay what they can afford. No draft - teams simply compete for the next best talent not contracted to another club. Keep list sizes to 30, with an additional 5 loan spots available per club for AFL players, like first year and development players to cut their teeth in a more competitive competition. The windows for loaning and recalling players is pre-season and during the mid-year draft period. 

When an AFL team wants to recruit a contracted 2nd division player, they have to pay a fee equal to the players annual salary multiplied by the length of the contract they're offered. This can be done in mid-season draft order if the AFL wants to ensure there is equalisation. The fee going to the smaller club allows them to invest in their facilities and own player development which will only improve the talent pool. If clubs can no longer afford to compete at a national level, they're simply replaced with another state league team that can. 

With no Saturday AFL games for the next 9 years, this league can potentially generated revenue from TV rights for staggered Saturday games. 

Once this league is well established, I'd look at structuring Victoria's metro and country leagues to ensure there was a pathway for talent to move from a local bush league, to a regional league, to the state level. It's ridiculous that talented players are getting $50k a year to play for Yinnar or Seymour where they win every game by 90 points. That money is being stripped from junior development to buy country league flags when there should be a way that talent can play at their level and get paid commensurate to that level. 

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15 minutes ago, Stu said:

I believe that the AFL needs to create a second national competition that it funds like a 19th AFL team (e.g. same amount of distributed funds as 1 club). Keep it to 12 teams, ask state league clubs to apply and pick those with the best facilities, balance sheet, and future plans. Could potentially accept bids from consolidated teams like Canberra or Darwin where no AFL team exists.

 

You would destroy the SANFL and WAFL competitions in a heartbeat if you did this. Both competitions have played a significant role in the development of the sport.

Some would suggest why not reduce the current amount of AFL teams to 14 and removing four Melbourne clubs as part of maintaining the national focus? It would also increase the standard of Stage league/2nd tier competitions.

 

 

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AFL NSW took over our league this year in NW NSW - provided more professionalism during the finals and removed parochial tribunals run by the Club. In a league of 6 teams, only four are competitive and only three or four players from each team are of very good standard. 

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I think community football is currently at the crossroads and I base this on some experiences I had this year following the suburban club that my family has been involved with for decades. This was the first season since prior to the Covid pandemic where the game was allowed to proceed to completion at grassroots levels but the effects were still evident in a number of ways.

One of my grandsons who was restricted to about half a dozen games of junior footy in 2020-1 as a result of the cancellation of one season and lockdowns in the next decided along with a few of his mates to try out at Under 19 level to balance their VHS studies (he turns 18 late this year) at their club whose seniors play in VAFA B Section. As it turned out, a number of former senior players had made the decision to retire or take the season off in order to travel - some had completed their studies and others simply wanted to take the first opportunity in a few years for a break from work in the almost post pandemic period. Similarly, with many potential Under 19 level players having just finished secondary studies wanting to concentrate on getting jobs, having gap years or to travel for part of the time, there weren’t enough numbers for an under 19s. The result was that my grandson and a few other teenagers doing their preseason, suddenly found themselves candidates for places in the senior team in Round 1 in B Section.

The club played a number of teenagers during the season and, all things considered, they were pretty competitive. The team lost players to injury and more travel plus a couple of retirements around mid season but they battled on. My grandson played 12 games and was out injured in four (there was an odd number of teams in the section requiring two byes and a 16 match season - also partly due to Covid). He was given a few tagging roles and was named in the best players on quite a few occasions. Despite us being in the second highest section of the VAFA and with a number of teenagers playing reasonably well at that level, we never saw any talent scouts at our matches. Was that due to a lack of money available to finance recruiting or simply that nobody was interested?

This wasn’t an issue for our club but, in speaking to others from other VAFA and suburban clubs, what we experienced was happening across the board. Every once in a while, there might be a surprise result and the explanation was health and safety issues, work requirements, trips north, to the snow or overseas, retirements and the like. There isn’t the same level of commitment as there used to be at this level – perhaps with another year, things might return to normal.

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I went to a couple of finals of a strong suburban league, but not a regular follower. There was a few ex AFL players running around in the GF, including Nev Jetta. Hard to comment on the standard of the GF because the ground (Cramer St. Preston) was like the old Lakeside oval.

But the first comment the premiership coach made referred to how hard it had been during and post Covid lockdowns. This was coming from a coach of a powerhouse, so I can't imagine how tough it has been for the 100s of other suburban/country clubs.

The premiership side was primarily made up of young players that came through their juniors, plus a couple of ex AFL players. It's probably easier for suburban clubs to retain local juniors than it is for country clubs.

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Depends which angle you are looking at.  Participation is up on the back of increase female participation, take that out and it shows the real health.  Boys participation is dropping, the local clubs with money dominate.

You have so many teenage boys dropping out of the game, It is something like only 30% will stay in the game to play u18s.  Around 70% will drop off between u13s  and 18s.  

The conversion from Auskick to junior footy is also very low.

More and more local clubs will fold over the next 10 to 15 years due to the lack of players available and not having the finances to bring players in.

The AFL knows this that is why they committed money to grassroots footy, not enough and still is targeting female participation.

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All of these clubs and leagues rely heavily on volunteers who receive very little support. It is not much fun begging local businesses or councils for support, or even for basic facilities and resources. Many volunteers haven't come back after Covid for various reasons. The administration of clubs and leagues has suffered as a result, and this has a trickle down effect to the coaches and players. If the players and coaches don't have a good environment to work in, they'll either go elsewhere or leave the game entirely.

My son's junior team is a good example of some of the issues. His team had 25 players registered last year. They were graded poorly and ended up losing most games by big margins. They lost 7 of those players in the offseason because it wasn't fun being flogged each week - most will never come back. They had 19 players this year, but played with 14 - 16 most weeks. Combined losses in the first 3 weeks were over 300 points, but the league wouldn't re-grade the team until we begged and pleaded for help.

The club simply doesn't have the resources to support all it's teams, and in our case it is the younger kids who are suffering. Ultimately there are a small number of very large clubs in the league that dominate with multiple teams in all age groups and wield all the power. The other clubs are just there to make up the numbers in a lot of respects, but many will go under without support.

 

 

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2 hours ago, drdrake said:

Depends which angle you are looking at.  Participation is up on the back of increase female participation, take that out and it shows the real health.  Boys participation is dropping, the local clubs with money dominate.

You have so many teenage boys dropping out of the game, It is something like only 30% will stay in the game to play u18s.  Around 70% will drop off between u13s  and 18s.  

The conversion from Auskick to junior footy is also very low.

More and more local clubs will fold over the next 10 to 15 years due to the lack of players available and not having the finances to bring players in.

The AFL knows this that is why they committed money to grassroots footy, not enough and still is targeting female participation.

I’ve run Auskick programs in Wodonga and STH Coast NSW under the AFLs heavy hand

The AFL have taken Junior Development at this level away from local clubs and introduced strange rules that most Fathers fined hard to get their heads around

So foreign to the game they once played 

Im not a fan of Auskick or how it’s run even though I loved being paid to coach kids

I may be 68 and didn’t start playing until I was 11 and the coaching Received early wasn’t great but  Auskick isn’t the answer either 

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3 hours ago, Whispering_Jack said:

I think community football is currently at the crossroads and I base this on some experiences I had this year following the suburban club that my family has been involved with for decades. This was the first season since prior to the Covid pandemic where the game was allowed to proceed to completion at grassroots levels but the effects were still evident in a number of ways.

 

One of my grandsons who was restricted to about half a dozen games of junior footy in 2020-1 as a result of the cancellation of one season and lockdowns in the next decided along with a few of his mates to try out at Under 19 level to balance their VHS studies (he turns 18 late this year) at their club whose seniors play in VAFA B Section. As it turned out, a number of former senior players had made the decision to retire or take the season off in order to travel - some had completed their studies and others simply wanted to take the first opportunity in a few years for a break from work in the almost post pandemic period. Similarly, with many potential Under 19 level players having just finished secondary studies wanting to concentrate on getting jobs, having gap years or to travel for part of the time, there weren’t enough numbers for an under 19s. The result was that my grandson and a few other teenagers doing their preseason, suddenly found themselves candidates for places in the senior team in Round 1 in B Section.

The club played a number of teenagers during the season and, all things considered, they were pretty competitive. The team lost players to injury and more travel plus a couple of retirements around mid season but they battled on. My grandson played 12 games and was out injured in four (there was an odd number of teams in the section requiring two byes and a 16 match season - also partly due to Covid). He was given a few tagging roles and was named in the best players on quite a few occasions. Despite us being in the second highest section of the VAFA and with a number of teenagers playing reasonably well at that level, we never saw any talent scouts at our matches. Was that due to a lack of money available to finance recruiting or simply that nobody was interested?

This wasn’t an issue for our club but, in speaking to others from other VAFA and suburban clubs, what we experienced was happening across the board. Every once in a while, there might be a surprise result and the explanation was health and safety issues, work requirements, trips north, to the snow or overseas, retirements and the like. There isn’t the same level of commitment as there used to be at this level – perhaps with another year, things might return to normal.

 

which club was this WJ? can dm me if you'd rather not say. i'm familiar to this division and it's a story that quite personally reflects on me

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20 minutes ago, Whispering_Jack said:

It’s AJAX but, from talking to others at games, it was common to quite a few clubs.

yep we now face the catch 22 of going down to prem c and losing all our vfl aligned blokes as the level isnt at the required standard for them to go back to if they aren't selected at vfl level which rips a huge core out of our group but at least we should be more competitive and at a level better suited to our seriously young and thin (numbers wise) squad

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18 minutes ago, Turner said:

yep we now face the catch 22 of going down to prem c and losing all our vfl aligned blokes as the level isnt at the required standard for them to go back to if they aren't selected at vfl level which rips a huge core out of our group but at least we should be more competitive and at a level better suited to our seriously young and thin (numbers wise) squad

Should be more competitive but the top half of C is not far behind the level of the bottom half of B. 

I’ll miss your ground in 2023. It’s a nice facility and the folks in the canteen are very welcoming.

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3 hours ago, poita said:

All of these clubs and leagues rely heavily on volunteers who receive very little support. It is not much fun begging local businesses or councils for support, or even for basic facilities and resources. Many volunteers haven't come back after Covid for various reasons. The administration of clubs and leagues has suffered as a result, and this has a trickle down effect to the coaches and players. If the players and coaches don't have a good environment to work in, they'll either go elsewhere or leave the game entirely.

My son's junior team is a good example of some of the issues. His team had 25 players registered last year. They were graded poorly and ended up losing most games by big margins. They lost 7 of those players in the offseason because it wasn't fun being flogged each week - most will never come back. They had 19 players this year, but played with 14 - 16 most weeks. Combined losses in the first 3 weeks were over 300 points, but the league wouldn't re-grade the team until we begged and pleaded for help.

The club simply doesn't have the resources to support all it's teams, and in our case it is the younger kids who are suffering. Ultimately there are a small number of very large clubs in the league that dominate with multiple teams in all age groups and wield all the power. The other clubs are just there to make up the numbers in a lot of respects, but many will go under without support.

 

 

I can empathise with you on your club’s issue with grading. The concept of grading is excellent because it should ensure that teams in each division are as close as possible in ability but it doesn’t always work out that way.

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26 minutes ago, Whispering_Jack said:

Should be more competitive but the top half of C is not far behind the level of the bottom half of B. 

I’ll miss your ground in 2023. It’s a nice facility and the folks in the canteen are very welcoming.

Forgive my ignorance WJ, at the level your grandson is playing how demanding is it aerobically?

And how much, if at all, has that aspect changed in say the last ten years?

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4 minutes ago, binman said:

Forgive my ignorance WJ, at the level your grandson is playing how demanding is it aerobically?

And how much, if at all, has that aspect changed in say the last ten years?

Definitely more demanding aerobically than it used to be ten years ago because coaches at this level try to emulate some of the tactics and strategies of the AFL whereas back then, it was kick ball, mark ball and the most adventurous piece of play was to just switch play across the ground. It’s far more sophisticated nowadays.

Also, the fact that he ended up playing seniors meant that he had to put in extra work to be fit enough just to play out a game. Late in the season, it became quite difficult for the younger players in the team but I think that’s to be expected.

That younger brigade who played ½ a season of Under 17 football last year went from playing 4 x 20 minute quarters against 16 year olds to playing 4 x 30 plus minute quarters against men at senior level. It’s a challenge and will hold them in good stead next year. 

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