AFL NSW-ACT boss Sam Graham confirmed the game’s plans to grow women’s football in the region next year.
With the inaugural Wagga girls youth competition underway, and a senior competition to start in Griffith shortly, Graham confirmed another first for the game next year.
Graham, who visited the Southern NSW region this week, revealed a Wagga women’s senior competition will be launched next year to coincide with the AFL Women’s second season.
“We’ve got a lot happening in the girls and women’s space,” Graham, AFL NSW-ACT’s chief executive, told The Daily Advertiser.
“We’re now into our fourth week of our under 13 and 16s youth competitions, we’ve got a new women’s competition starting in Griffith in October and at the start of next year, in align to the AFLW season, we’re going to have a local women’s competition running through February and March.
“So (we’re) getting ahead of the curve and planning for the growth in women’s football, which has been stimulated by the inaugural competition in AFLW, which started this year and is looking to grow bigger and better in 2018.”
Graham said it was a monumental development for the game.
“It is really exciting,” he said.
“Netball plays a key role in community footy, which is really important but we think there’s an opportunity for girls to play football.
“You can certainly do both and it’s great to see a lot of girls and women interested in playing our game and now they’ve got role models at AFLW level and a pathway where they can play on the national stage and that’s really stimulated the growth.”
Graham also weighed in on the future of the senior competitions in Southern NSW.
The AFL have implemented the Player Points System (PPS) over the past couple of seasons in a bid to increase club sustainability and create a level playing field.
They are also keen to introduce a salary cap, as early as next season.
Graham believes tools like the PPS and salary caps will help create even competitions, that in turn helps ensure the future of all clubs and leagues.
“Certainly it’s the way forward,” he said.
“You only have to look at say, the AFL competition this year, where the AFL has introduced a number of competitive balance mechanisms to really even the competitions and what that’s showing is you see record attendances, you see a lot of upset results and you see competitive games. And fans, volunteers and players knowing that they can win on any given day.
“That fan interest translates into broader health of the game and if you apply that lens to the community level, those principals apply.
“So the player points system, discussions around salary cap, how we support some of the smaller clubs or maybe the clubs are based in more of the regional communities, how we can support and sustain those clubs is really critical because if you’ve got those even competitions where volunteers, supporters and players have an expectation that they can have some success and can win some games through the season, that’s really critical of the overall health of the competitions.”
Overall, Graham believes the game is in a strong position in Southern NSW.
“The game’s in great shape, record levels of participation and we’ve got great draft results, the last two years in particular,” he said.
“You look at the Giants Academy and the traction that’s having in terms of players from the Riverina on the Giants’ list, again at record levels but there’s also talent from the region going to other clubs, like Harrison Macreadie at Carlton, which is excellent.
“I think the strength of the competitions is really solid...but also at the elite level, we’ve had the Giants and Swans going really well on the national stage, the two teams that represent Sydney and NSW going really well.
“They both have record membership and record attendance and the TV audience as well out of the region is at record levels as well, so all in all, from grassroots to the elite level, we’re pretty happy with how the game’s going.”