I rise today to speak on the South Australian National Football League. As honourable members would be well aware, the 2009 season of the SANFL begins this weekend, and the league is again looking to build on the strong crowd attendances of 2008, which were up 6.8 per cent on the previous year.
The Hon. R.I. Lucas interjecting:
The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS: The Hon. Mr Lucas interjects that this is the most positive part of the year for him, because at this stage the mighty West Adelaide Football Club is undefeated—but maybe for only a short period of time! This figure includes a massive 11,827 fans turning out to the round 13 Glenelg versus Sturt fixture, which helped to deliver the best attendances since 2002, with 275,842 spectators in total making their way through the turnstiles in the 2008 minor round.
With the launch of its 2009 publicity campaign ‘The Real Deal’, the SANFL is keen to remind South Australians of what is a fantastic community based, family friendly, grass roots football competition that (according to SANFL’s website) offers ‘real action, real atmosphere and real value for money’. I have to say that last year’s final series was an absolute delight for a football spectator—good, hard footy, fast, and with a lot less of the nonsense that we see with the AFL at times.
In these tough economic times, with the impact of the global financial crisis being felt by many South Australians, a day out with the family at the local footy becomes a very attractive entertainment option. I commend the SANFL’s great initiative of giving free entry to children under 18 at all SANFL games, as it makes for both an affordable and enjoyable family day out. Round 1 of the Be Active league season kicks off this Friday night with traditional rivals Norwood and Port Adelaide doing battle at the Parade.
South Adelaide takes on West Adelaide on Saturday afternoon at Noarlunga Oval. In a first for the SANFL, a twilight game between Glenelg and Sturt will be played at 4.30 on Saturday at the Bay, and the round will be completed with Central Districts versus the Eagles at Elizabeth on Saturday night. North Adelaide starts this round with a bye.
There has been some speculation in the media in recent times about the financial position of the nine SANFL clubs and their viability going forward. It will be the SANFL’s responsibility to help clubs weather these tough economic times, and it must do all it can to support the nine clubs in consolidating their position as important community-based football clubs.
The success of the two Adelaide-based AFL teams is crucial to this with the SANFL holding both AFL licences in South Australia. I also take this opportunity to wish the Adelaide Football Club and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Port Adelaide Football Club all the best for the upcoming AFL season.
I urge all Port Power supporters to get along, no matter how painful it is, and watch their team participate; the SANFL certainly needs the revenue. The SANFL is a competition steeped in history and tradition with the 2009 season marking 132 years of Australian Rules football in South Australia. This makes the league one of the most decorated and oldest football leagues of any code in the country.
It undoubtedly plays a major part in the lives of many South Australians and contributes greatly to South Australia’s rich sporting culture. It also remains the best state league competition in the country, acting as a feeder competition for the AFL. Its reputation as a breeding ground for the football stars of the future has been continued this year.
Season 2009 heralds the introduction of the elite under-18 competition, streamlining the old under-17 and under-19 competitions. This positive move brings the SANFL into line with other state leagues’ underage set-ups around the country and will give many young South Australian fellows the best chance to realise their dream of playing at the elite AFL level.
Some other initiatives that the SANFL and the clubs will continue with in 2009 include having a number of themed rounds such as Rivalry Round, taking the game to primary schools with clubs conducting clinics at schools within their zones, and promoting the game in country areas with games at Encounter Bay and Waikerie.
The excellent standard of local footy played at various suburban ovals around Australia really must be seen to be believed, and it is matched by the passion of the supporters and the atmosphere that this generates around the grounds. Again, I encourage all South Australians and indeed all members to support their local SANFL clubs in the 2009 premiership season.