Contributed by: Brett Northey Friday, December 09 2011 @ 09:21 pm ACDT
worldfootynews.com recently reported on the transition of the AFL's National and International Development Manager, David Matthews, to CEO of the AFL's newest club, the Greater Western Sydney Giants. That begged the question of who Matthews' replacement would be and whether Matthews and GWS coach Kevin Sheedy would actively pursue an international agenda. We caught up with the new CEO to find out.
Firstly we were keen to know who would take on the role of Development Manager for the AFL and whether he would be as passionate about the international component as his predecessor. Matthews was confident, having already worked with his repalcement.
"Andrew Dillon, whom is currently on the AFL Executive, has assumed responsibility for Development. Andrew has been on the Executive for a number of years and has a genuine passion for, and understanding of, development. As a couple of examples of his International interest, he wrote the rules for the International Scholarship Scheme and helped to organise the match in Shanghai (attended also). He will be a strong advocate and he, Tony Woods and I recently presented an upgraded international plan to the AFL Commission".
We've certainly heard that Game Development hopes to expand its international efforts, so we'll be keen to follow up to see what the Commission's response was.
As to the issue of the Giants and whether Sheedy and Matthews could still be a positive force for the game's spread, Matthews explained, "International expansion, in part relies on AFL Clubs being passionate – the short answer is yes. Kevin and I certainly are passionate but so too is Chairman Tony Shepherd and General Manager of Football Operations, Gubby Allan. I would like to see the Giants have the biggest International membership of any club over time".
At this stage that's more of a statement of intent rather than a specific set of plans, and understandably establishing themselves locally will be their top priority. "Our key focus is to make sure that we grow our footprint in our local regions but we will certainly have an eye for any international opportunities. Our key partners are encouraging us also – Skoda took Kevin Sheedy to its headquarters in Prague earlier this year".
Of course many at the club were exposed to international footy when the world descended on their doorstep for the 2011 AFL International Cup, staged in part at the Giants' initial home ground in Blacktown.
And China remains prominently on the radar. Recently Sheedy expressed a desire to take the Giants there to play a match for premiership points, which would be the first time in AFL history a regular season match has been staged outside of Australia. David Matthews supports the concept in general. "We will play a game in China at some stage I think. What form of game and when are questions still to be answered".
A couple of suggestions from WFN would be to make an offer to Leagues to help the next new club in each country don the Giants jumper, and also make sure the Giants make full use of the International Scholarship Scheme. Of course they're already off to a good start with signings to that list, and the full listing of Israel Folau and Setanta O'hAilpin, as well as being based in such a multi-cultural part of Australia.
On the recent announcement of Tadhg Kennelly's AFL ambassadorial role Matthews said, "This is an important role and the first time we have had someone with a dedicated focus on international talent. The AFL is now committed to ensuring that AIS Academy trips leave a legacy in terms of localised coaching and talent outcomes."
So it seems progress will continue within AFL Game Development and as the Giants find their feet it's quite likely they too will put their shoulder to the wheel of international footy.