California should not be a dream
California should not be a dream
Kevin Sheedy

Do we lack courage in Australia? Not the courage that wins football matches like Scott Lucas showed last weekend kicking that goal against Carlton. We’ve got plenty of that.

Rather, it’s courage that administrators and governments need to dream big and then fulfill the dream for the benefit of all of us.

And people who say why not instead of why?

Recently, my mind has turned to California Dreaming, not the least because the NFL in America is making noises again about setting up in Australia. Rest assured, they won’t do it in half measures.

Which begs the question, what are we doing to make our game international? If we have had one failing from the past 100 years, it is not taking the game outside our country.

We’re spending millions in New South Wales and Queensland and that needs to be done. Those nine million people are important to the future of the game. And Ireland…I support that too, but there’s only four million there.

The population of California is close to 30 million, two and-a-half times the size of Australia.

And as a people, they’re very much like us. Los Angeles is like Sydney, glitzy, in your face, while San Francisco is that bit more cultural and laid back, like Melbourne.

The links between the two cities from a football point of view would be easy to create. And they’re just 14 hours away by aeroplane.

So why aren’t we there already, selling our game, pitting it up against theirs?

Is it because our administrators lack the fortitude and self-belief we call on footballers every time they step on to the paddock?

If you really love our game, then you have to want to see it grow. To achieve growth, you have to have a plan, an idea of where you want to be. And you have to go out hard and get it.

I don’t see any plans about international expansion in Australian football, and that means we are missing the opportunities to generate millions of dollars as well as bring more and more people to the sport.

The marketing of Australian football in California is simple enough. Start with television because the Americans always do. Let’s challenge them. Tell them our game is tougher, faster, better than theirs. It’s certainly faster.

By the time they get the designated kicker out of his private dressing room or wherever it is he sits waiting for his moment of glory, or by the time the DEE-fence swaps for the OFF-ence, we’ve kicked six goals in Australian football and been up and down the field 20 times.

Can you imagine Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan popping up on their screens and saying: “Call that a game, this is a game!”

We should be pitching into the colleges, forging links with the younger generations, particularly the 18-to-25 year olds, aiming for those talented athletes who haven’t made it into the highly professional sports like basketball or gridiron where opportunities are limited.

Very little happens below that level in sport in America. There is a void waiting to be filled. There are kids waiting for a game they can play to enjoy and maybe if they’re good enough, get a living. Why shouldn’t it be our game?

We could arrange exchanges between colleges and schools, we could gain tourists from it.

And eventually, television would generate the funds to build the new arenas needed.

It won’t happen overnight, but winning Sydney and Brisbane won’t happen overnight either.

You’ve got to make the investment now to reap the benefits in 20 or 30 years time.

The AFL needs to be looking at, and working on it, now. In fact, the AFL should be setting up its own Commission Of The Future, good people who will take the left field ideas and make them happen.

There are people in the United States who would love to be part of it, like the Australian ambassador, Andrew Peacock. He loves his footy and knows his way around.

Just like it was last Sunday, when Stephen Silvagni’s kick dribbled past Dean Rice and towards Scottie Lucas, the opportunity is there for the taking.

All it requires is the courage. Have our administrators got it?