May 13, 2013 League Freak AFL 7
Right from the get go I want to let anyone reading this article know that I was born in Penrith, I was raised in Mt Druitt and I went to high school in Blacktown. I’ve lived my entire life in Western Sydney so I think its fair to say that I understand the people of Western Sydney.
That is the difference between myself and Kevin Sheedy, a 65 year old AFL coach that was born in Victoria.
You see, Kevin Sheedy was chosen to head up the Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL team. Apparently he was the best person to try and sell AFL to people in Western Sydney, like me.
It all started off with some bullshit, make believe story about how the man that helped supposedly make AFL and how he was in Parramatta for a very short period of time. That made AFL a game of Western Sydney, apparently. Of course, the people of Western Sydney were a bit bemused by this, but at that stage most of us were not paying attention anyway.
Then, Blacktown City Council was sucked in to building the AFL a training ground. This really pissed people off. Millions of dollars were spent on a venue that was always going to be a white elephant. A venue for a sporting team that was always going to be based at Homebush. Blacktown City Council spend millions dollars of rate payers money on what is now a stadium used for the occasional pre-season AFL match, and schoolboy matches.
As all of this was going on we had Kevin Sheedy shuffling from place to place telling us, the people of Western Sydney, who we are, where we come from and what we value. It wore thin very quickly…
The AFL then went out and spent million of dollars to get a poster child for Western Sydney in Israel Folau. A Queensland Rugby League representative was all of a sudden being sold as “One of you guys”. Not a great start. We then had the AFL cynically using Folau try to can draw in Polynesian supporters and players to the game, because apparently when Polynesians saw one of their own playing AFL they would flock to the game!
As the AFL’s Giants team based itself further and further east, they kept trying to sell the game in Western Sydney where no one had any interest in the sport what so ever. It was almost as though the AFL itself forgot that the Sydney Swans had existed in Sydney for decades, that they had barely carved out a niche for themselves, and that people in Western Sydney have televisions and cars and the ability to travel to the SCG is we wanted!
To their credit, the Sydney Swans kept telling the AFL that they were going about this all wrong. The AFL didn’t listen though. People in Melbourne knew all about Western Sydney, you just had to ask them….
As Israel Folau ran around in front of tiny crowds, looking malnourished and completely miserable, the AFL kept trying to sell the game to Sydney with hilarious concepts like “The Battle of The Bridge”.
Meanwhile at Parramatta, the people of Western Sydney finally had a soccer team of our own. This was something we actually wanted! You didn’t have to make up playing figures in Western Sydney like the AFL had at junior level….soccer has had huge playing numbers in Western Sydney for decades!
So the Western Sydney Wanderers were born, and boy were they a success!
In contrast the AFL’s Greater Western Sydney Giants were completely anonymous. They played in front of tiny crowds. They made zero impact in the sports news cycle.
Of course, AFL types couldn’t handle this. Something was wrong, and it couldn’t be the fact that no one liked the game! I mean, AFL has taken over such far flung places as Adelaide and Perth. Why were the people of Western Sydney, one of the great cities of the world, paying no attention what so ever?
Kevin Sheedy knows why:
“We don’t have the recruiting officer called the immigration department recruiting fans for the West Sydney Wanderers. We don’t have that on our side.”
And THAT is what it all comes down to!
You see, to the AFL all of us Western Sydney people are just a bunch of poor immigrants We all come here carrying a sack, we struggle from day to day just to survive and we should all thank the AFL for giving us a distraction from our miserable lives!
Well I’m sorry Kevin, but your ignorant racist view of us will not be tolerated. You can scamper back to your AFL mates in Melbourne and get a cushy ride on the back of your comments, but people in Western Sydney remember this shit! We don’t suffer fools, we don’t buy into bullshit and we sure as hell won’t put up with some shuffling 65 year old man from Melbourne telling everyone he represents us while as the same time writing us off as “just a bunch of immigrants”!
Western Sydney is a proud region that consists of people that come from every corner of the planet. We are a melting pot, but not one that needs to beat our chest or feel the need to be help up as an example to anyone else. Its just who we are. We don’t know any different.
We are not a marketing tool. We are not demographics that the AFL can use at will. We know what we like, and we know what we don’t like.
We like Rugby League and Soccer. We don’t like AFL. It has nothing to do with race or background or anything else.
Western Sydney people don’t suffer fools and we don’t buy into bullshit. Without a winning team playing a sport we actually like, that is all that Kevin Sheedy and the AFL has to sell us.
And they wonder why it isn’t working….
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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Well written, League Freak. You’ve said it far more eloquently than all those tweets, but with the same message. AFL seriously underestimated Western Sydney and Football and Western Sydney Wanderers got it exactly right! Thank you!
League Freak, I think you’re contradicting yourself. You say to Kevin Sheedy: “We like Rugby League and soccer. We don’t like AFL.”
But when I tell you that people in London don’t like Rugby League, you’re not interested. You won’t listen to sense. I have never been to Australia, and I have never watched Aussie Rules. I think there are similarities here, however: people in Sydney don’t follow AFL. People in London don’t watch Rugby League.
If you have the time, watch a Youtube clip “Bob Mills Rugby Twickenham”. It shows Bob Mills and Steve Bunce talking about Rugby League and Union for about 2 minutes.
Bob Mills says that there is a north/south divide in terms of RL and RU. He is right !!!
Frank, I know you didn’t just try to link two completely different subjects regarding two completely different sports on completely different sides of the planet.
I know you didn’t do that because that would be dumb….
Hi, League Freak – I’m afraid that I am sticking by my point. You tell me that your fellow Sydneysiders dislike AFL. Fair enough – I will take your word for that.
I am telling you that RL in London is the same. People in London could not care less about RL. They are more interested in experimental theatre from Bolivia or Peru. About RL, they don’t give a **** !
So there is a similarity. I don’t know how many times you’ve been to London, but I know that you don’t understand British sport. Rugby League is a major sport in Aussie. So is Aussie Rules. Neither of them is a major sport in the UK.
Your ‘suggestions’ for new ideas in British RL are laughable. The game will never take off in the midlands or the south BECAUSE PEOPLE THERE THINK IT’S BORING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s a democracy. In a democracy, you cannot force people to watch Rugby League !
That’s not quite the whole story. Soccer is the big draw but RL has the most viewed club rugby competition in the British Isles. Larger than the Aviva and the Pro 12, never been any different. It just never gets that position reinforced by the media, quite the opposite in fact. RU in the UK is every bit as “regional” with currently 1 AP club in the North
RL just never has the £ to do anything big or the leadership to do it right. The majority of sports fans in the UK are not rugby literate to assure even casual interest.
If a London club was placed properly rather than only taking what was available and had some success it would get fans.
But you are right LF doesn’t fully understand the UK sports set up.
I agree with a bit of what you say and disagree with other bits.
You are right to say that RU is regional. I am from the North West. Brian Kenney, the owner of Sale Sharks, has really struggled to attract new supporters. There are more people watching Wire or Wigan. Of course that’s true.
The problem In London is that, apart from football, no sport attracts consistent crowds. RU only does that for internationals. That’s one reason why I think RL will never take off there. Very old RU clubs ( e.g. Saracens, Quins and Wasps ) have poor crowds. If they cannot achieve good crowds, what chance does a Rugby League club have ???
Rugby League in London is never going to take off. Maybe that’s a sad fact, but it’s still true.
“Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through” – Joseph Conrad.
We should stop pretending that RL is a national sport. It isn’t. Never has been. Let’s accept the facts.
Well we don’t need it to be national just viable. The early days of Fulham, there was no London identity just a Fulham one. If that RFL had some foresight and not let relegation come into play for a couple of years that early Fulham success of 10,000 gates could have been built on.
I don’t think RL will take off but it can work if sponsorship money from a higher profile compensated for say a 7,000 potential gate.
Thing is unlike Australia RL in the UK always had a low media/ tv profile. You wanted to see a game you saw it live. Then Sky comes along and then you pay your cash and watch it in your own home. To follow RL many fans only choose one option even in the heartland.
The biggest problem is the lack of sponsorship income and not dealing with the RU as a problem. RU defines rugby in GB and that is a discussion RL seems not to want to have with itself.