Question marks continue to circle the Hunter and Central Coast region in regards to the ongoing future of AFL competitions, after AFL NSW/ACT announced they would begin to implement a new investment and governance for the 2019 season.
AFL North Coast’s regional manager for Northern NSW, Simon Smyth, doesn’t believe there’s any questions that need answering however, and has said the “future of juniors is the key” when it comes to any potential changes.
“[AFL NSW/ACT] bringing national and state objectives to the area to help grow the game, to help produce more talented players and umpires, to support volunteers and give more quality facilities,” Smyth said.
“I believe this is not a ‘takeover’ as some have said. It’s becoming very local in practice as well as principle. I firmly believe this model is the way forward for an exciting region that has proven it can take talent to the top.”
Smyth pointed to the growing population of both Newcastle at the heart of the Hunter region, and the cities that make up the Central Coast, and declared that growth can give AFL the chance to leave a “strong legacy for generations to come”.
“We currently have low transition rates from juniors through to seniors, and lower retention rates than other regions similar to our level,” he said. “We also have a declining male player-base.”
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“I see a model where we’re junior/senior aligned, we’re locally owned and we have increased investment and resourcing as the absolute best way to take this region forward. We want men, women, boys and girls not only playing our game but volunteering, umpiring and enjoying the game.”
“We’re really passionate about this upcoming project and really committed to it.”
Smyth issued a call to all involved in AFL in the Hunter and the Central Coast to “come together”.
“The junior board has a strategy, as does the Black Diamond board, and we want those strategies to come together and be aligned. This is an opportunity to have one group making decisions all the way from the ground up, so we can transition more boys and girls into men’s and women’s football.
“If we’re working together, instead of as two separate entities, we can – and will – be stronger together.”
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Smyth also attempted to allay any fears those in the region may have about problems that have arisen in Victoria when the AFL had moved into those locally-governed leagues.
“It’s a vastly different model, the model that was implemented in Victoria was a ‘regional commission’,” he explained. “If we had a regional commission the Hunter, Central Coast, Tamworth, North Coast and Northern Rivers all coming under one region.”
“The model being suggested here isn't the AFL taking over, it’s just local people making decisions for their own regions. I have no concerns about what has or hasn’t happened in Victoria because this is something completely different.
“It’s the right thing to do for our particular region.”