Contributed by: Jake Anson Tuesday, March 01 2005 @ 02:33 am ACDT
The article, which includes an interview with NZAFL General Manager Rob Malone, reports that the AFL's development focus could be shifting towards Australia's trans-Tasman neighbour next year. Chief among the reported initiatives is the possibility of New Zealand hosting one or more 'community camps' - the AFL's successful regional training program - and a Wizard Cup match in 2006.
The reports follow comments from AFL Commission chairman Ron Evans, who stated that his desire to see growth of Australian football increase at an even greater rate. It may signal a shift in the AFL's development focus to areas which complement the league's work in Western Sydney and South-east Queensland.
Over the past decade, the AFL's development focus has firmly centred upon areas in Queensland and New South Wales where the code receives minimal exposure. While Australian football has made great strides in these areas, undoubtably assisted by the Brisbane Lions' recent success, some argue that for the code to continue its high growth rates it must push into new regions. To this end, New Zealand shapes as a natural choice, with AFL games already receiving exposure on free-to-air television, short travel distances and a large expatriate Australian population in the country. In addition, 4 local Australian football leagues already exist in New Zealand's largest population centres and NZAFL this year had 15,000 children involved in it's development programs.
Overseas pre-season matches have been staged in the past, though in recent years the focus has moved towards holding matches in regional Australian cities. The most recent in New Zealand was held at Wellington's Westpac Trust Stadium in 2000, between the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn, and drew a crowd of 14,000.
The full article can be viewed on the NZAFL website here.[*1]