Elation and SAFLs growing pains

By Jeremy Lamberton

From little things big things grow or so the Paul Kelly song goes. The same applies in Australian football. As a child growing up on the north coast I saw straight away the problem facing the development of AFL in the region. I noticed my peers darting across the oval impersonating Alan Toovey or Mal Meninga rather than Alex Jesalenko or Kevin Bartlett. It was how we would spend our lunchtimes assigning the player that we wanted to be like and for that hour we were sporting gods in our own little world.

Emulating our idols back then led to participation on the weekend. The television and media coverage of the AFL was simply second rate compared to the NRL, and as kids we got the impression it was a second rate game. The first chance I got to play the game I love, I took, making the unpopular switch to Auskick. I was already 11 and the League lasted two years. It was brilliant and it saw the rise of many great players in the area, but lacked the funding and staff to continue. After a break of three years it started again and has been running to this day. However I, along with others of my age bracket, had already become too old to participate and either started to train with the senior teams or had just given it up.

This age gap could be a fundamental reason that there are so few players in the 18-22 age bracket on the North Coast at present. But we must move on and look at the positives the rise of Sydney Swans as Channel Tens flagship team has boosted numbers in the Under 12s and Under 14s with the media frenzy having an instant impact. The fight to be Barry Hall is on.

Around the grounds this weekend Casino play Ballina and Byron Bay host Lismore with both games starting at 2pm on Saturday. Murwillumbah takes a much-needed bye.


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