When I think of a catastrophe it usually conjures up images of a disaster. Maybe a terrible bushfire or a flood that has claimed lives. Black Saturday and the Asian Tsunami are two events that come to mind.??
But I never think of a football club.??
Yet this is how you described the GIANTS and the Suns in a recent column in the Sunday Age. "Catastrophes which will cost football tens - evens hundreds - of millions of dollars without reaping a dividend," you wrote.??
Boy. The last three years of my life must have been a waste of time. I should pack up now. Head back down to little Victoria. Or maybe put my feet up down in Tassie. It's nice and quiet down there.??
Yet here I am. Still here in Western Sydney. Being part of something genuinely pioneering. Helping many other people build a football club that we can be proud of. A club that provides opportunities on and off the field. A club that is part of this community.??
As we do, I am encouraged by what I see around me. Kids playing AFL on what were once rugby and soccer fields across Sydney. Goalposts going up around Western Sydney. Bet you didn't know the participation rate in our game increased by 27 per cent last year in Western Sydney did you?
I also see the fans coming to our games at Skoda Stadium. Mums and Dads with their kids dressed in orange. I even see them at training. They come and say hello and say 'Well done' and have a photo and an autograph. It almost reminds me of being back in Melbourne.??
But it never makes me think of a catastrophe.??
It does give me hope though. Which is just as well given the GIANTS and the Suns are - in your words - a pair of "unloved, artificially formed clubs".??
Try telling that to our nearly 11,000 members (and growing). Try telling that to the fans who track across Sydney from the Blue Mountains and beyond to watch our games. To the cheer squad members who give their time week in week out during winter to work on our banner. To the many volunteers who give of their time for one simple reason. They love the game.??
That is a football club. It is not a catastrophe.
I don’t know if you have been hanging out with your new coach Grumpy Mick but I reckon you could easily become the eighth dwarf – Sad.??
As crowds, membership, TV ratings and participation grows here in Sydney, so it seems does the disillusionment of people like yourself down south. Bleating about cost of living allowances and draft picks. Rotations and rules. Some person called Andrew Newbloke even talking about indigestion. Did he eat a bad pie at the footy? ??
Then I read columns like Martin Flanagan's in last Saturday's Age. A fellow Tasmanian if I am not mistaken. Last week he spent time with some of the AFL’s Multicultural Ambassadors including our own Setanta O'hAilpin. I think you know him too. He used to play for Carlton before you gave him the flick. I have been meaning to thank you.
Not only is Setanta a good footballer and terrific human being he is also one of our game's many great stories. Born in Bankstown to a Fijian mother and Irish father, he moved to Ireland when he was young and played hurling and Gaelic football before returning to Australia to play our game. And now he's back in Western Sydney.??
How come Martin always seems to find the little gold nuggets in our game while others seem to always come away empty handed, leaving them to bitch and moan? ??
I know you are still moping because Tassie doesn't have a team. But they also rejected a chance to come into the national competition way back in the early 1980. Just ask Allen Aylett.??
Despite this, they still have six games a year in Launceston and Hobart. Perhaps if they ever resolve the differences between north and south they will have more. Even a team. And I thought Ireland was bad (Now there's a catastrophe) ??Recently I compiled some interesting stats on your home state. Tassie has had 365 players in the history of the VFL/AFL. There are currently 36.
New South Wales has had 381 players and currently has 37 (Queensland has 42). Do the names Carey, Kelly, Crawford, Daniher, Longmire, McVeigh and Hayes mean anything to you?
Yet for the past 30 years the biggest state in Australia has had only one AFL team. Imagine what we can do with two? There are two million people in Western Sydney. People like Setanta O'hAilpin.
Imagine what this game can achieve if it can harness even a tenth of these people. The same way it has Setanta, Bachar Houli and Majak Daw.
Enjoy the game Tim.
And please keep it in perspective.