Australians enjoy a unique and exciting brand of football which is enclaved in the southern states, but deserves a higher profile among the sports of the world.
In the last few years Soccer’s national A league competition has become increasingly popular, a trend enhanced by the national team, the Socceroos, winning the Asian Football Cup.
More children, girls as well as boys, are now choosing to play soccer with its sophisticated foot skills, greater career opportunities. and lesser risk of incapacitating injury.
The AFL can not afford to become complacent over its present supremacy in the football stakes. Australian Rules football is limited to an 18-team inter-club competition, dominated by Victoria. Players are not able to represent their state or country as a result.
Club football is sacrosanct because it yields profitable admission and television rights income. As beneficial as this is for the game it does not help those small AFL playing states of Tasmania and the Northern Territory to support teams in the higher standard AFL competition.
State of Origin fixtures can be hugely successful as they are in Rugby League. But with only NSW and Queensland competing it is far easier for this code to schedule a best of three contests. On the other hand, the AFL has six states to accommodate, if State of Origin games are to be re-introduced.
Clubs have been less than enthusiastic in their past support because their key players are exposed to the possibility of injury. My intention is to encourage debate on how competing interests might be juggled for success and as a follower of the game I offer a few suggestions:
- Interstate games if possible be held after the club competition finishes. Might a four week period in October be devoted to representative football before the weather gets too hot?
- An independent national administration with representatives from the state leagues and the AFL be involved in the scheduling of matches. Any would be better than none.
- Five possible teams to compete in a round-robin State of Origin competition over 4 weeks: 1) Metropolitan Melbourne, 2) Country Victoria, 3) South Australia and the Northern Territory, 4) Western Australia, and 5) Queensland, NSW and Tasmania.
- In addition, more matches than at present should be arranged between the various state leagues on an ad hoc basis.