AFL chasing diversity in Western Sydney

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AFL may be a national sport, but that hasn't slowed a determination to push the sport into Sydney's multicultural heartland.

The normal way that a professional sporting club engages with local school children is for a handful of players to drop-in to school say 'hi' and sign a few autographs.  That template has been torn up and thrown away by the AFL.

In the sport's bid to grow AFL in the hard to crack market of Sydney,  the code is using the Greater Western Sydney Giants to good effect. 

The club's players have backed the "All Year Round' engagement plan, including Giants co-captain Callan Ward.

"It does fill me with a lot of pride,  and its probably something that I'll forever be passionate about, growing the game out here," he told SBS News.

Western Sydney is still predominantly Football and Rugby League heartland.  But if Greenacre Public School prefect Michael Papalii is any guide,  that could soon change.

"I like Rugby League, but AFL is a good sport as well.  If I don't have Rugby League to play, then I'll just pick up an AFL ball," he said.

Those words will hit home for those other sports AFL is keen to rival.

Giants players Callan Ward,  Kieran Briggs and Jye Caldwell, left to right, with Greenacre School students (SBS)
GWS Giants players show the children around their training complex at Sydney Olympic Park
SBS - John Baldock

The figures also make worrying reading for the National Rugby League,  Football Federation Australia and Rugby Australia in particular.

Between 2016 and 2018 there’s been a 33 per cent increase in the number of juniors playing in Western Sydney who come from a multicultural background.

The final part of the year long programme will be for the school to go to one of the Giants home games next season. 

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