Western Sydney Australian Football League Team

About this Item
SubjectsFootball; Sport and Recreation; Western Sydney
SpeakersLynn The Hon Charlie

Page: 21099

    The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [11.26 p.m.]: I speak tonight about an issue of great importance to Western Sydney: the establishment of our own Australian Football League [AFL] team. Last year the Sydney Swans realised their dream of winning the AFL Grand Final. This historic win also fulfilled the vision of the then Victorian Football League [VFL] administrators back in the 1970s. The victory was a fitting tribute to the team's inspirational coach, Paul Roos, and to the courage, skill and teamwork of the players. The relocation of the then South Melbourne Swans to Sydney, which had well-established rugby union and league traditions, was a high-risk strategy. It was never going to be an easy task, and the move quickly attracted some questionable marketing techniques. These carpetbaggers knew nothing about football but lots about the culture of our eastern suburbs: the focus of their campaigns was based on tight shorts, Swanette cheerleaders and pink helicopters.

    The eventual bankruptcy of its major backer almost led to the demise of the team. Fortunately, the club was able to engage a former VFL football champion and highly credentialed sports administrator, Kelvin Templeton, to get back to basics and focus on the future success of the team on the field. Kelvin Templeton's vision for the code in Sydney, his knowledge of the game, his empathy with players, his leadership and his outstanding management abilities led to the emergence of the Sydney Swans as the most successful sporting club in Australia. During this time Kelvin took a deep personal interest in the personal development of the young players who found themselves in a foreign city with loyalties divided between three other football codes. He established career plans and educational programs to prepare them for life beyond football and limit the opportunities for distractions. I know that Leo Barry might never have taken the most important mark in the history of the club if it had not been for the personal interest that Kelvin took in his football career when Leo was under serious consideration for trading a few years previously.

    After the completion of Stadium Australia for the 2000 Olympic Games, Kelvin developed three theme games to attract Sydneysiders and their families to the game in Western Sydney. The first theme game was dedicated to the recognition of the indigenous nature of our game and the contribution of our indigenous people to its success. It included a display of Aboriginal culture through art, dance and storytelling, and the introduction of the Marn Grook trophy. The second theme game was dedicated to the spirit of Kokoda and involved a salute to our veterans, demonstrations and displays from our defence forces and a showcase of Papua New Guinea culture, with dance and sing-sing groups brought down from Papua New Guinea. The inaugural game attracted more than 40,000 people even though it had no bearing on the finals. The third theme was directed towards Western Sydney and encouraged people to get involved in their local communities. Pre-match entertainment, displays and demonstrations were designed to add value to the family outing, and it was a great success.

    After Kelvin's departure as chief executive officer the Swans' commitment to the indigenous game was reduced to an insignificant level. They reneged on their commitment to an ongoing Kokoda memorial game and the Western Sydney theme was forgotten as they withdrew to their base in the eastern suburbs. Around the same time their most successful coach parted ways with the Swans and there were reports of shady negations to recruit a high-profile coach. When the Swans supporters got wind of this they mobilised in support of their local choice, Paul Roos. The Victorian coach who had reportedly been approached for the job resigned unexpectedly from his team but people power prevailed and the president of the Swans was forced to capitulate and accept the coach he did not want. Paul Roos went on to coach his team to a historic victory and vindicated the judgment of the punters. I find it ironic that the president received a gong in the latest Australia Day honours list—I think it should have gone to the punter who led the charge for the appointment of Paul Roos!

    The achievement of the long-term goal of a grand final for Sydney offers a timely opportunity for the AFL to now look at the consolidation of the game in the wider Sydney area. Western Sydneysiders have been completely dudded by the AFL for years. The denial of live coverage on a Friday night has shown the level of contempt AFL administrators and television moguls, who mostly seem to live on the eastern side of the bridge, have for the punters. Loyal followers of the code have had to endure traffic snarls or inadequate public transport to get to the Sydney Cricket Ground for years. This has been somewhat ameliorated recently by a handful of games at Stadium Australia, but it is not good enough.

    A recent proposal for other clubs to play more weekend games in Sydney is not the answer to the further development of the code in Sydney. The only satisfactory solution is for Western Sydney to have its own team. The planned upgrade of the Blacktown Olympic Park would provide an ideal venue for our own Western Suburbs AFL team. The ideal club to relocate to Sydney, or to play its home games here, would be the Western Bulldogs. It shares the same ethos as Western Sydney and would be readily accepted into the fold. Blind Freddie knows that Melbourne cannot continue to support 10 AFL clubs. Freddie also knows that Western Sydney is the economic engine room of New South Wales, the most culturally diverse region in Australia, and has the most people. To deny this region a home team would deny the code the opportunity to fulfil its potential as the greatest game in Australia.