Aussie Rules growing in Sydney's west - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Aussie Rules growing in Sydney's west

By Sarah Malik 13/08/2010 11:57:59 AM Comments (0)

As the AFL's campaign in Greater Western Sydney builds, Dave Matthews is quietly confident the sport is making inroads in the rugby league heartland.

Matthews, AFL's national and international game development manager, says the code's programs in the region have seen a substantial increase in overall and junior participation.

"In the last four years we've seen a 20 per cent increase in junior club participation," he said.

"I think you can see from our growth we are certainly pleased with the direction the game is heading in Greater Western Sydney."

With Kevin Sheedy preparing the Greater Western Sydney franchise for its start as the 18th club in the AFL competition in 2012, Matthews said it was part a "top-down, bottom up" approach to spreading the code in the area.

"The building blocks are in place for a successful sporting club," said Matthews.

At the bottom level, the code was rolling out primary school clinics and programs such as Auskick aimed at developing the skills of children aged five to 12.

"We invest significantly in our primary school programs and Auskick programs to make sure the introduction is high quality and very accessible," he said.

Matthews challenges the notion that rugby league "owns" western Sydney, with soccer and rugby unions also seeking to shore up positions in the populous, youthful area.

"There's room for all sports," he said.

"There's two million people (in western Sydney) - I don't think any sport anywhere in Australia can claim it owns a particular territory.

"When you look at the population of the region it's equivalent to Perth and Adelaide combined," he said.

"It's growing all the time - a lot of young emerging communities - it's very diverse."

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