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2 CONTENTS PAGE Background 3 Current Climate 4 Objectives Of Review 5 Research and Consultation 5 Key Stakeholders 6 Key Recommendations 8 Flexible Fixturing 9 Additional Improvements 9 Conclusion 11 Feedback and Consultation 12 Where to from here? 12 Version 2.1

3 Page3 NEXT FRONTIER BACKGROUND The first game of Australian Rules on the North Coast was played in March In the 36 years since that first match, football in the area has established a foothold but is yet to become a truly consolidated competition. In the early days, one Coffs Harbour club and a Port Macquarie team travelled every week to play in the New England competition based around Armidale. The early growth of football in Coffs Harbour saw its team split into two in The AFL North Coast competition began in 1982 with Urunga, Grafton and Woolgoolga joining Port Macquarie, North Coffs and South Coffs in the inaugural season. Over the past three decades some teams have come and gone from the competition. While nobody can expect perfection from a code in its infancy, the loss of clubs is far from ideal. When the new milennium started there was a hint the AFL North Coast competition was moving from the initial survival phase toward a consolidated competition. Recent events has seen the competition take a backward step at the senior levels, a trend all lovers of football in the region would like to see reversed. The AFL North Coast Board, having been chartered by the clubs with the responsibilty of making some change if necessary, has formed a sub-committee to undertake a review of the playing numbers.

4 Page4 CURRENT CLIMATE Over the past decade, the North Coast region has seen good growth in under age numbers and an increase in the presence of AFL development activities that has increased school participation rates. But the world changes quickly and the AFL North Coast is faced with some serious challenges. Those immediate challenges are: 1. The loss of two senior sides over the past few seasons 2. Fewer sides in the under-13 and under-15 competitions 3. Multiple forfeits across competitions 4. Perceived lack of cohesion with AFL development and clubs 5. Lack of volunteers THIS REVIEW On the back of feedback collected from both senior and junior leagues the AFLNC Board appointed a sub committee to investigate the issues facing the local competitions and report back with recommendations to renew in 2014 and beyond. To that end the review has been conducted with the following aims in mind. 1. Define the high level objectives of proposed competition changes for Define the aims of each level of competition to grow participation and increase enjoyment and safety.

5 Page5 OBJECTIVES OF REVIEW 1. Stabilise loss of sides/players suffered in Define strategies to support local clubs and improve communication 3. Define some high level competition objectives for Understand the needs of competitive senior players from social players 5. Improve safety for older and younger social players 6. Increase participation in senior competitions (players and sides) 7. Align all junior grades under the one structured pathway 8. To recognise different needs within junior age groups 9. To align junior club efforts more closely with AFL development programs 10. Propose some longer term goals for the growth of AFL 11. Improve the progression of under-age players from schools to clubs and into senior clubs 12. Increased volunteer participation RESEARCH AND CONSULTATION A subcommittee to research the current issues facing AFL North Coast was formed by the AFL North Coast Board in June The subcommittee collected and studied information from the following sources: 1. Results of an online AFL North Coast junior survey (64 responses, June 2013) 2. s and verbal communication from infdividuals and clubs from the North Coast and Mid North Coast regions. 3. Feedback from junior and senior delegates meetings as well as junior senior administrative committee meetings. 4. Discussions with other local football codes (North Coast Football, Group 2 and MNC Rugby) 5. Simon Smyth, manager AFL NSW/ACT Hunter/Central Coast region where an under-17s competition was recently introduce, and; 6. Notes from Riverina region meeting 2012 re viability of an under-17s competition.

6 Page6 KEY STAKEHOLDERS Any review must address the needs of key stakeholders. The key stakeholders are listed below (in no particular order) with some identified needs. Stakeholder Needs Clubs Avenues to raise funds, communication from leagues, consultation, direction, support Competitive Players Regular games, fun, organised competitions, competitive games, fitness Social Players Fun, limited travel, limited training, safe game day environment, social activities Junior Players (12yrs and below) Localised competitions, family support, safe environment, fun with mates Youth Players (13-16yrs) Competitive competition, safe environment, pathway, play with mates Volunteers, coaches and umpires Recognition, guidance, support, education Supporters Regular accessible interesting football games, media coverage Parents Organised activities, accessible locations, affordable fees, safe environment Media Access to information, professional reputation AFL NSW/ACT Governance, participation growth, support AFL objectives, accurate data

7 Page7 Meaningful statistics are dependent upon the accuracy and relevance of data in our Footy Web. The statistical data for AFL North Coast in Footy Web is currently below the required standard making extraction of completely reliable data difficult. While the current maintenance of FootyWeb could be described as haphazard at best, a key statewide statistic is that the code loses one in two players between primary aged competitions and secondary aged competitions and a further one in two between secondary and senior club football. This highlights that of all players who participate at an under-15 level, only one in four progresses through to senior football. The above chart supports the idea of a larger base of players to increase the liklihood of more players progressing through to senior ranks. KEY POINTS: 1. 50% of under-15 players across NSW don t progress to the next age group % of under-17 or under-18 players across NSW don t progress to seniors or reserves.

8 Page8 KEY RECOMMENDATIONS With the aforementioned needs in mind, the following recommendations have been proposed by the AFLNC Board sub committee for discussion with stakeholders (see timeline on page 12) with a view to implementation as soon as practical. THE PROPOSED MODEL Introduce separate divisions to meet player and supporter needs. Key Elements: Premier Division 1. Higher ability players wanting competitive quality games 2. Players and officials committed to training and travel 3. Aspirations to expand competition to eight teams 4. Defined feeder club structure for each club Social Division 1. Reduced contact rules applied 2. Limited travel 3. More social players not committed to train or travel 4. Cater for older and younger players with less ability or desire 5. Competition in conferences with limited cross conference games 6. Flexible fixturing Youth Division 1. Two age groups under-15 and under Under-17s placed in juniors for the positive cultural reasons such as: i. No alcohol environment as all players will be under-age ii. Reduced insurance costs for parents iii. Working with children considerations iv. Easier to gain vital Good Sports accreditation 3. Prefer local games but travel within North Coast as part of fixture 4. Structure identifies senior club affiliation and player pathway 5. Recognise the link with High School age groupings 6. Align fixture to Junior Division where possible (keep families together) Junior Division 1. Age groups under-13 and under-11 with AusKick 2. Families kept together 3. Local competitions with limited travel 4. Closely aligned with AFL school programs 5. Aligned to Youth Division sides See Attachment A at end of discussion paper.

9 Page9 FLEXIBLE FIXTURING The ability to have flexibility in the fixture in regards to what day/night of the weekend matches are played needs to be promoted. While it is acknowledged 74% of responses in a recent survey of North Coast juniors stated that they felt Sunday morning competition helps participation, it is felt making clubs and their members aware of the ability to change days matches are played is necessary. Clubs can agree to play any matches on a different day/night to the usual for a variety of reasons (eg/ promotion, gala days or possibly solve any possible short-term player number issues). It is important that forward planning be used for this process and at least two weeks notice be given to the football operations manager to ensure umpires will be available. Games at all levels would be played generally over Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night or Sunday. It is at the discretion of the two competing clubs what is the best fit for them. Possibilities could include playing matches on public holidays. Further consideration will be given to clubs hosting finals matches. ADDITIONAL IMPROVEMENTS While a growth in partcipation numbers along with increased enjoyment and safety on the field ia a vital goal, measures can be taken with off-field activities to help AFL North Coast clubs reach these aspirations. Volunteers 1. Develop and provide Job Descriptions and match day procedure documents Most of these are already available on the Community Football website. 2. Implement a recognition program for all volunteers that include such things as free apparel, AFL game tickets and local awards. 3. Develop recruiting strategies for club officials (some resources are already available on aflcommunityclub.com.au)

10 Page10 Clubs 1. Implement a communication policy and process to ensure that feedback is collected and responded. 2. Investigate ways to improve sponsorship opportunities. Affiliation Agreements Creating signed annual agreements between clubs and the AFL North Coast designed to improve levels of accountability and obligations between clubs as well as between the AFL North Coast and clubs. Recruitment 1. Designated sign on days to be held across the region for all junior and youth grades with support from AFL (NSW/ACT), AFLNC and media. 2. A program of regional promotional activities to be developed in tandem with key recruitment dates. 3. Implement pre season gala day for senior, youth and junior leagues. 4. Aspire to develop an online registration program simplifying the re-registration of past players Links between AFL (NSW/ACT) Development Officers/Schools/Clubs An improved communication and timetable program to be developed for junior clubs. While having Development Officers promote the code in schools is a vital step toward the health of our game, the highest rate of recruiting junior players from schools to clubs occurs when a junior club becomes involved in the process and attends a school for a short period with a Development Officer to promote the club. Culture Change Challenges Any change to the status quo, no matter how big or small, requires a readjustment to the typical paradigm thinking. While this is a discussion paper and awaits feedback from stakeholders, a future challenge arising from this document may be senior clubs and coaches accepting the need for a social competition and understanding it will probably demand changes of coaching and playing style.

11 Page11 CONCLUSION AFL North Coast s big challenges are yet to come. The Board needs honest and positive feedback. This is not the limit of ideas but is a good start. One thing for sure, the AFL North Coast community does not have a choice. Changes need to be made to reinvigorate the sport in our region. We have a fantastic game to sell. We need everyone to get behind it and make it work.

12 Page12 FEEDBACK AND CONSULTATION The response from key stakeholders is vital to the success of the entire AFL North Coast community not only implementing any changes, but embracing them as well. If you feel there are any issues that have been overlooked in this document, your feedback is encouraged. WHERE TO FROM HERE? 1. Stakeholders to provide written feedback to by September 2, A strategy workshop involving stakeholders is going to be held to agree on and formulate action plans to be held by late-september. 3. A release of the outcomes from the workshop to be released to the AFL North Coast community by mid-october. 4. Ratify agreed changes at various league s Annual General Meetings by late-october.

13 Page13 APPENDIX 1:

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