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Is AFL sucking the life out of our international sporting prospects????

Aussie!

Aussie!

Oi!

Oi!

OI !!!!

Personally I think that any activity that involves running and jumping in pursuit of a misshapen ball is rather pointless but if it entertains the people then isn’t that point enough? I know that those of my readers who are passionate about AFL footy are not going to like this piece but the article in today’s Oz suggesting that this countries sporting decline of late might just all be the fault of the AFL may be onto something.

Which brings me back to Australian rules. Our most dominant winter code boasts about 600,000 players and, at the elite level, 17 teams in a national competition. There are two key observations to make about AFL in the context of Australia’s declining sporting fortunes. First, it is a provincial sport without a global presence; a black hole. Second, it attracts many of Australia’s finest athletes; rare talents who would be well suited to sports in which Australia competes internationally. As things stand, perhaps our finest athletic talent is lost to the international stage.

To make this point in a more graphic way one need only take a low-ranking AFL side such as my own team, Richmond, and dismember it.

About five of Richmond’s tallest and most athletic players would, if appropriately re-skilled, dominate the Wallaby lineout or – to use a case more pertinent to current national anxieties – bolster Australia’s fast bowling stocks. They are all of Chris Tremlett-like proportions. There lies our next Glenn McGrath.

It has not always been so – remember Dermot Brereton? – but today’s AFL player is conditioned in the style of a middle-distance runner. He carries less bulk than earlier generations, but has more stamina. Re-condition him for strength and speed and he could walk into any NRL side. But a much broader perspective is needed, for these athletes are talent lost to the Socceroos, which failed to advance beyond the group stage in South Africa, to the Olympic team (track, field and swimming) and to tennis.

Luke Slattery seems to be suggesting that the solution to our sporting woes (don’t mention The Ashes if you are true blue Aussie 😦  ) is to ban “the footy ” so that our best and brightest at running jumping and chasing balls can be redirected into other more internationally popular sports and Australia can once again acquire greatness on the fields of foreign lands. Gee and here was me  thinking that sport was supposed to be for fun and fitness rather than a proxy battle for international dominance…

Its still just different variations of the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable  and does it really matter what sort of rituals any group of individuals perform as they chase it???….

Cheers Comrades


5 Comments

  1. Ray Dixon says:

    Iain, sport is not just “for fun & fitness”. It’s also a major industry and provides great entertainment to the masses. So yes, it does matter. Where the author gets it wrong is to describe AFL as “a black hole” with no future prospects. He fails to acknowledge or understand that AFL is arguably the fastest growing football code in the world. And just because it is a home grown one does not mean it will never have a global presence. As for the “fine young athletes” he refers to who opt to take up AFL – as opposed to other, more international sports – they do so of their own free will. That in itself seems to suggest AFL is a game of the future unlike NRL, which is clearly going backwards. As for cricket, give me a break. That’s a lazy man’s sport and while it can occassionally be very entertaining it’s hardly a game for real athletes.

  2. Iain Hall says:

    Right on cue there Ray 😉

    Sorry but I don’t put the same value on the sporting “industry” as you clearly do because I think that if sport has any value it has to be in the way that it encourages ordinary folk to get out there and to be physically active, and to may mind professional sport that becomes to “elite” just alienates those ordinary folk who want to have a bit of fun with their mates or stay fit and health for a long life.

  3. Ray Dixon says:

    Well Iain, for the vast majority “elite sport” brings people together. It hardly alienates us and is in fact a great talking point, of mutual interest, a social leveller and an integral part of life. For most of us “ordinary folk”, that is. And celebrating and enjoying being a spectator of elite sport does not preclude us from other fitness and healthy activities. I can watch sport and still have time to stay active just like I can walk & chew gum at the same time.

  4. Iain Hall says:

    The fact remains Ray that a very significant part of the population just doesn’t care about any spectator sport even if they enjoy doing it themselves

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