If I tell you AFL will never, ever be the Number 1 sport in Australia will you inject me with horse peptides?
Ok, that's a bit unfair, I'm not an AFL team looking to circumvent the notion of fair play and the sporting ethic this country is built on in order to win a competition viewed, played and populated largely from, by and in Victoria, but my sentiment doesn't change. Trust me, I haven't tried much at all to alter it.
I haven't bothered watching a game of AFL in person, even with free tickets to pretty much any game in Sydney being available to anyone with even the slightest interest (or disinterest to be honest) in AFL. I have seen a few games on TV (where AFL doesn't measure up in any way as a television sport compared to Rugby League let alone Football), and once tried playing it in school (although I must admit that since everyone got bored after 10 minutes and switched to playing football or league it wasn't the best introduction).
Yes, AFL is (probably) the most popular team sport in Victoria.
Yes, AFL is played in over 2.5 states of Australia.
But show me someone who hasn't found it dead boring at some stage and I'll show you someone who thinks the AFL was telling the truth about their dodgy Auskick numbers in NSW a few years back.
There's a reason that out of the major sporting codes in Australia, it is the AFL with the lowest international reach. The reasons are clear to me.
You might be guaranteed a score if you watch a game of AFL, but only because the goals are so wide and infinitely high. Anyone with even mediocre talent can score. However, even the supposed "elite" of the AFL can miss this wide and high goal from directly in front. There is also the routine spectacle of watching teams deliberately throwing the ball through their own goal, gifting their opponents points!
I understand suggesting the Victorian game will never beat Football anywhere in Australia but some areas of Melbourne will be upsetting to those who live in Melbourne, but let's look at the facts.
AFL is a game built on people who if they want to be any good, must set their sights on leaving the outer suburbs of Melbourne to make their way to the big smoke of the inner suburbs of Melbourne. There is only one top flight professional level of AFL across the entire planet, which to me begs the following question: If the AFL is the only top flight league, is it actually a 'top flight' or just the equal worst professional league? Just what is the reward for this gruelling and epic journey along the Melbourne equivalent of the M4? An average yearly salary of $251,559.
No matter the talent an AFL player has, they spend the majority of their time traipsing around Melbourne, with a handful of trips to AFL's far flung global outposts to play against GWS or the Brisbane Bears. Occasionally a 'big name' will make a move to Sydney or Brisbane, but this is generally so the player can live their life in complete and total obscurity to the general population of their new home. The level of athleticism required for AFL is so minor that people who haven't ever played AFL at a high level can switch from another sport and still make millions while being immediately deposited into the 'top flight' of AFL.
Of course, Victorian white guy #1, Victorian white guy #2, Adam Goodes & Victorian white guy #3 show kids everywhere that they too can aspire to be an "All Australian" and lose to a team of amateur (unpaid) Irishmen in a mutant abomination of Gaelic Football and Modified Victorian Gaelic Handegg.
Match attendance is the AFL fan's immediate counter to the notion their sport is unpopular, doomed to fail or simply boring, but crowd averages are on the wane, having fallen by 6,000 over the last few years. Even in the so called 'top flight' of the AFL, GWS, the newest team, launched with a $200 million warchest, have 8 official crowds of under 7000 in only three years. Considering the thousands of free tickets available, their actual paid attendance would be lucky to hit 2000.
Football has grown massively according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics latest research, with participation rates for males aged 5-14 growing from 265,500 in 2006, to 277,800 in 2009 and all the way up to 309,700 in 2012. Compare this to AFL, which includes dodgy Auskick figures in their tallies, and still fell from 2009 with 223,700 down to 212,700 in 2012. Clearly the sports mad young men of Australia are choosing with their feet to play football. Participation among females aged 5-14 is an astounding success for Football, with 87,800 participators in 2012 compared to AFL's 13,800 (which once again includes dodgy Auskick figures).
While the biggest AFL teams will always be the same teams, playing against the exact same other teams year in and year out, Football provides opportunities to see global superstars play in Australia as well as to see our best challenged by the best of countries like Japan, Korea, China & Saudi Arabia, and for Australia as a nation to play in global tournaments such as the Asian Cup & World Cup.
Attendance and global reach isn't the only reason why Football is the better sport. AFL culture runs counter to the Australian ethos of fair play and this includes the private lives of AFL players, with the so called "God" of AFL, Gary Ablett Senior, being responsible for giving heroin, ecstasy & amphetamines to a 19 year old woman named Alicia Horan, who subsequently died of a drug overdose in his hotel room.
The idea of taking dives, king hitting opponents, using performance enhancing peptides, match fixing, or giving starstruck teenagers illegal drugs is just too unpalatable for many bought up on the sense of fair play that Football provides, but that we see time and time again in AFL.
While I'm not a parent, I completely understand those who avoid the disgraceful un-Australian ethos of the sport of AFL and those who play it and instead jump at the chance to play the World Game, the Beautiful Game, the true Australian game of Football.
Canberra FC vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Wednesday 30 July 2014 - 7:00PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 7:00PM EST
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly
Location: Deakin, Australian Capital Territory
Stadium: Deakin Enclosed Oval
Click here to view the record
A fierce strike from Brendon Santalab had given the Western Sydney Wanderers a 1-0 win over Macarthur Rams.
The Wanderers opening match of Season 2014/15 was held in freezing conditions in Campbelltown, and the Red & Black shook off any post-season frost with a high intensity pressing game that kept the Rams on the back hoof for almost the entirety of the game.
The key moment came midway through the second half when Santalab blasted a rocket from outside the area that beat the Rams keeper all ends up to open the scoring.
Tony Popovic sent out his charges in the typical 4-2-3-1 formation, and typically of pre-season games, he experiment with his lineup which included several trialists.
In the first half, new goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis took up position between the sticks, with Mark Bridge playing in the attacking midfield role, while trialist Steve Kuzmanovski tore up the right flank, taking advantage of the Macarthur left fullback's woeful positioning to get behind the Rams defence on numerous occasions. The other major point of note was Sandro Pasalic, a 19 year old German national who appears to be a left winger by trade, took up position at left fullback for the Wanderers. Pasalic was most recently part of the junior squad of SV Wacker Burghausen, a club who were last season relegated into the fourth tier of German football.
The second half saw wholesale changes, with Ante Covic in goal, young gun Marty Lo deployed as a deep holding midfielder, and on 67 minutes, the first look at Brazilian attacking midfielder Vitor Saba. Unlike his scruffy beard, his play on the pitch was silky smooth, and Saba lit up Campbelltown Stadium, gliding through numerous challenges and looking to link up with his team-mates. After the match he came over to the far side of the ground where the RBB were situated and spent some time taking photographs and autographs with his new supporters.
All in all, it was a good hitout, and one that stands the Wanderers in good stead for their trial next week in Canberra, Apia Leichardt on the 5th of August, before their first competitive match of the season against Adelaide City on the 12th.
Two other pieces of news hit the twitterverse this evening, one good, and one bad. The bad was that Australian National team defender & Wanderers Australian Marquee player Matthew Spiranovic had been carrying an ankle injury through the World Cup, and now requires surgery that will leave him out for 3 months.
The good is that ex-Victory player, attacking winger James Troisi is set to sign for the Wanderers and it could be completed as early as next week.
The Wanderers next match is against Canberra FC, at Deakin Stadium, Canberra, on Wednesday the 30th of July.
The Western Sydney Wanderers have completed the signing of 31 year old winger Romeo Castelen.
Former RKC Waalwijk player Castelen has been signed to the Western Sydney Wanderers on a two year contract. Castelen is a former Dutch national team player, he made his debut in his early 20's against Sweden, amassing 10 caps for the Oranje from 2004 to 2007, scoring his only goal for his nation in 2005 by poking home a scramble from a corner against Armenia in a victorious World Cup Qualification match.
His career began at ADO Den Haag, scoring 20 goals from 83 league matches. This earned him a move to Dutch giants Feyenoord and set the stage for national team duty. Impressing with 20 goals from only 65 matches, it appeared he had a bright future at the highest level until he was cut down with numerous injuries. His move to Hamburger in Germany was disastrous, spending the majority of 2007 to 2012 under injury clouds, making just 22 appearances.
After a move to Russia failed to reignite his career, he then made a return to Holland for RKC Waalwijk, scoring 6 goals in 29 matches, but ultimately failing to save his side from relegation from the Dutch top flight.
Castelen will look to plug the gap on the right wing that was created when Youssouf Hersi joined Perth Glory. The signing marks another in a line of talented but injury hit foreigners to join the Wanderers. The tactic helped deliver the Premiership to the Wanderers in their first season, and if Castelen can keep fit his pedigree suggests performances to match or even better Hersi.
The Wanderers squad now numbers 20 out of 23 first team players, 2 out of 3 under 21 full time contracted players, and 4 out of 5 foreign players.
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Macarthur Rams vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Wednesday 23 July 2014 - 7:30PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 7:30PM EST
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly
Location: Leumeah, New South Wales
Stadium: Campbelltown Stadium
Click here to view the record