AFLX & State of Origin: a match made in footy heaven

The AFL do most things better than the NRL.


They are truly national, they have bigger crowds and they make more money, but there is one thing that must drive them insane and that is watching the New South Wales v Queensland clashes for the State of Origin. Do they see the crowds, passion and the money asking themselves how can we emulate that?


The AFL must look on at the NRL’s parochialism, hunger and television ratings shaking their heads in wonder. It should be particularly galling as Australian rules invented the concept with the first interstate game being played in 1879 between the VFA and South Australia. The first interstate carnival was held in Melbourne in 1908 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the invention of Australian rules in 1858.


At this time of year, with the NRL state of origin picking up steam (they even have the audacity to play one of the games in Melbourne and charge like wounded cane toads), the age-old question arises yet again, ‘When are the AFL going to revisit state of origin for the footy public?’. The AFL has to decide if they want State of Origin or let it fade away like the drop-kick, gifting the NRL carte blanche.


Gillon McLachlan and many current coaches, even some in the media, believe the concept of a State of Origin series would be detrimental to an already packed AFL season. There are the possibilities of injury, the restraint of time and contracts, and the overuse of star players. What we need is a brand of footy that is low impact, fast, skill based and doesn’t take too long to play. A game that can be played outside the season and preferably, anywhere in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a concept known as AFLX which is the perfect vehicle for State of Origin football.


Why couldn’t we reintroduce state football in this newly developed, much maligned AFL side project? Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I too was resistant to this new concept impeding on our beloved game, but researching AFLX, it has led me to realized that this ‘side project’ just may be the answer to all those State of Origin bugbears.


For fans that have seen little success for their clubs, they would love to give their support to their State of Origin. Most players, in my opinion, would still give an arm or a leg to play with and against the greats of 2018. There’s immense pride that comes with that, and the AFL needs to see how football can reach out to a greater audience. This concept has the potential to reward existing audiences and find new ones along the way and even grab some of the passion (and money) that the NRL sees every year.


For those of you that are unaware of AFLX, the major rules are:


  • Soccer-size rectangular pitch which gives it access to most countries of the world.
  • Seven on the field (plus three on the bench).
  • Fast, free-flowing, low impact footy.
  • One umpire, no center bounces, kick-ins from full-back after goals
  • Quarters of 10 minutes
  • 10 points for goals outside 40m


AFL game development manager Andrew Dillon stated: “AFLX has been created to provide us with the options to play a form of the game in places where oval grounds are limited and to showcase our game internationally at a point in the future.” Showcasing this game internationally is a big step in right direction by allowing our beloved game to be marketed around the globe.


Before AFLX is showcased overseas, why can’t we combine it with State of Origin footy?


As this game is ‘fast and free-flowing’, star players can show off their skills whilst representing their state. The hatred the Croweaters (South Australian natives) and the Sandgropers (West Australian natives) had for Victoria made the antagonism between NSW and Queensland seem like a love fest. The Old tribalism that would see teammates like Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neale playing on each other has been lost since the AFL adopted their ‘professional’ approach.


It has the capacity to rejuvenate state of origin football.


Coaches angst at their good players being over-played resulting in injury, need to understand that AFLX is low-impact and will have a far more profound impact on the players than they think. To use cricket as an example, foreign players playing in the IPL learn so much playing with and against the best, often coming back with whole new levels to their game.


AFL players playing in the AFLX state of origin will be able to play with and learn from the best, much like the IPL. Young Geelong first year player Tim Kelly would be able to add more strings to his bow playing in a Western Australian midfield with Nat Fyfe and Tom Mitchell. Club’s worried about losing money through AFLX need to realise the staggering amounts of money the NRL make through television rights for the state of origin. The State of Origin series between New South Wales and Queensland, last year, attracted an average national television audience of 3.65 million across the three games. During the 2017 AFL Grand Final the game’s post-match presentations attracted 3.69 million people to be the highest all year, but the State of Origin attracted more over the series, the AFL should take this into consideration, with a revenue of $650 Million for the 2017 financial year, they can improve their imposing status by broadcasting an AFLX state of origin series on free to air TV which would increase revenue for clubs, players and the league itself.


I’ve created my ideal of State of Origin sides to play in a possible AFLX interstate competition in 2019.


As AFLX only requires 10 players all the states including Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales/ACT and the Northern Territory can select their own sides. Whilst selecting the sides from all the AFL clubs, I developed a strong feeling of how great a spectacle this would be if Dusty Martin, Patty Dangerfield and Tom Lynch for the ‘Big V’ battled it out with West Australian trio Buddy Franklin, Nat Fyfe, and Pat Cripps. It would be something all players would relish and some of these clashes could be the greatest seen since the famous clash between Western Australia and Victoria in 1986, which has gone down in footy folklore as one of Western Australia’s greatest wins, before the VFL went nationally in 1987.


As the 10-year anniversary of the Tribute match between the Vic’s and the Allies was a few weeks ago, now is the time for the current stars to showcase their ability and add a new story to the rich history of Australian Rules Football.


VIC AFLX State of Origin Team 2019


Jarryd Roughead (Capt) Alistair Clarkson (Coach)


Squad: Michael Hurley, David Astbury, Michael Hibberd, James Sicily, Robbie Tarrant, Kade Simpson, Jackson Macrae, Patrick Dangerfield, Andrew Gaff, Steele Sidebottom, Tom Lynch, Shaun Higgins, Jeremy Cameron, Robbie Gray, Dustin Martin, Josh P Kennedy, Josh Kelly, Adam Treloar, Trent Cotchin, Marcus Bontempelli, Stefan Martin, Toby Greene


B: Josh Kelly (GWS) Robbie Tarrant (North Melb)
Foll: Stefan Martin (BL) Patrick Dangerfield (Geel) Dustin Martin (Rich)
F: Jarryd Roughead (Haw) Tom Lynch (GCS)
Int: Jackson Macrae (WB) Robbie Gray (Port Adel) Steele Sidebottom (Coll)


A well-rounded squad with a formable side on the ground. The ‘Big V’ has been the team to beat since the start of Interstate football, winning an astonishing 10 consecutive carnivals between 1924 and 1958. Hawks legend’s Jarryd Roughead and Alistair Clarkson lead a side that includes some of the stars of 2018 such as Brownlow medallist’s Dusty and Danger; attacking midfield/defender Josh Kelly, Gold Coast’s centre-half forward Tom Lynch, Port’s mercurial half forward Robbie Gray, and the current favourite for the Brownlow medal Jackson Macrae.


SA AFLX State of Origin Team 2019

Shannon Hurn (Capt) Simon Goodwin (Coach)


Squad: Phil Davis, Tom Jonas, Heath Grundy, Matthew Scharenberg, Bernie Vince, Rory Laird, Jack Redden, Bryce Gibbs, Jared Polec, Chad Wingard, Justin Westoff, Shane Edwards, Daniel Menzel, Orazio Fantasia, Brodie Grundy, Lachie Neale, Brad Ebert, Travis Varcoe


B: Shannon Hurn (WCE) Rory Laird (Adel)
Foll: Brodie Grundy (Coll) Bryce Gibbs (Adel) Jared Polec (Port Adel)
F: Chad Wingard (Port Adel) Daniel Menzel (Geel)
Int: Shane Edwards (Rich) Lachie Neale (Frem) Justin Westoff (Port Adel)


Supported by the best rebounding defenders in the AFL, captain Shannon Hurn, who played under 19s cricket for South Australia and the ever-reliable Rory Laird from Adelaide form a strong backline. Superstar Ruckman Brodie Grundy will hand off to midfielders such as Bryce Gibbs, Jared Polec and Lachie Neale on a silver platter. Exciting small forwards such as Chad Wingard, Daniel Menzel, and Shane Edwards will be dangerous around the ball as always for the ‘Croweaters’.


WA AFLX State of Origin Team 2019


Nat Fyfe (Capt) John Worsfold (Coach)


Squad: Neville Jetta, Alex Rance, Elliot Yeo, Jeremy McGovern, Nathan Wilson, Tim Kelly, Tom Mitchell, Mitch Duncan, Michael Walters, Lance Franklin, Stephen Coniglio, Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy, Jesse Hogan, Aaron Sandilands, Patrick Cripps, Jaeger O’Meara, Daniel Rich


B: Elliot Yeo (WCE) Alex Rance (Rich)
C: Lance Franklin (Syd) Nat Fyfe (Frem) Patrick Cripps (Carl)
F: Jack Darling (WCE) Jesse Hogan (Melb)
Int: Tim Kelly (Geel) Tom Mitchell (Haw) Jeremy McGovern (WCE)


Possibly the best team on paper for the AFLX state of origin. Western Australia has superstars in every position. All-Australian defenders Alex Rance and Eagles duo Elliot Yeo and Jeremy McGovern form a powerful defence. A Midfield that could destroy any state of origin team since 1908 contains superstars such as Buddy Franklin, Brownlow medallist, and captain Nat Fyfe and contested clearance kings such as Blues star Patrick Cripps and the human ball magnet Tommy Mitchell. Cripps and Mitchell are averaging more than 28 disposals, 17 contested disposals, and eight clearances, nine rounds into 2018. In fact, the top three clearance winners for 2018 are in this strong West Australian midfield. Although there are no centre bounces in AFLX, these boys are proven winners of the Sherrin and will pepper a forward line featuring arguably the best forward in the AFL, Jack Darling and Demons gun Jesse Hogan who can push up like Buddy into the midfield.


NSW/ACT AFLX State of Origin Team 2019


Taylor Walker (Capt) John Longmire (Coach)


Squad: Matthew Suckling, Dane Rampe, Isaac Smith, Isaac Heeney, Luke Breust, Tom Hawkins, Callum Mills, Jarrod Witts, Jarrod McVeigh, Harry Cunningham, Kieran Jack, Sam Naismith, Jack Steele, Josh Bruce, Jacob Townsend, Anthony Miles, Zac Williams, Harry Perryman, Sam Murray, Matthew Kennedy


B: Matthew Suckling (WB) Dane Rampe (Syd)
Foll: Isaac Smith (Haw) Isaac Heeney (Syd) Taylor Walker (Adel)
F: Luke Breust (Haw) Tom Hawkins (Geel)
Int: Callum Mills (Syd) Sam Murray (Coll) Zac Williams (GWS)


An attacking defender is a strong asset for an AFLX side. As goals from outside 40 are worth 10 points, the NSW/ACT team has attacking players who can easily find the goals from outside 40. Adelaide and NSW/ACT captain Taylor Walker has a tremendous long kick, as do defenders Matt Suckling, Dane Rampe, and Zac Williams. The two Isaac’s in Smith and Heeney will provide much-needed run and carry. Whilst a strong forward line including, Luke Breust and Tom Hawkins are known goalkickers and have also won five premierships between them.


QLD AFLX State of Origin Team 2019


Dayne Beams (Capt) Michael Voss and Marcus Ashcroft (Coach)


Squad: Harris Andrews, Dayne Zorko, Josh Thomas, Charlie Cameron, Lee Spurr, Charlie Dixon, Tom Hickey, Sam Gilbert, David Armitage, Brayden Preuss, Josh Wagner, Brendan Whitecross, Lachlan Keeffe, Jarrod Harbrow, Lachie Weller, Rory Thompson, Jack Bowes, Zac Smith, Josh Smith, Adam Oxley, Eric Hipwood


B: Harris Andrews (BL) Jarrod Harbrow (GCS)
Foll: Dayne Zorko (BL) Dayne Beams (BL) Josh Thomas (Coll)
F: Charlie Cameron (BL) Charlie Dixon (Port Adel)
Int: Lachie Weller (GCS) Eric Hipwood (BL) Lee Spurr (Frem)


An up and coming team that will be more successful than the past teams to represent Queensland. The Maroons defence includes young Lions leader Harris Andrews who is second in the league for 1%s, and strong rebounders in Jarrod Harbrow and Docker Lee Spurr. 2017 All-Australian forward Dayne Zorko leads the AFL for inside 50s and is dangerous from 40m. Captain Dayne Beams finds the ball whilst Collingwood’s Josh Thomas has proven his value as a midfield-forward. The two Charlie’s, Cameron and Dixon showcase a Ying & yang forward line with the additions of Lions young gun Eric Hipwood and Suns forward Lachie Weller. The team will be coached by triple premiership heroes Michael Voss and Marcus Ashcroft, who are both named in the Queensland Team of the Century.


TAS AFLX State of Origin Team 2019


Grant Birchall (Capt) Brendan Bolton (Coach)


Squad: Alex Pearce, Jeremy Howe, Mitch Robinson, Ben Brown, Jack Riewoldt, Liam Jones, Jimmy Webster, Maverick Weller, Toby Nankervis, Jarrod Waite, Jesse Lonergan, Kade Kolojashnij, Aaron Hall, Jake Kolojashnij, Brady Grey, Josh Green


B: Alex Pearce (Frem) Jeremy Howe (Coll)
Foll: Toby Nankervis (Rich) Aaron Hall (GCS) Mitch Robinson (BL)
F: Ben Brown (North Melb) Jack Riewoldt (Rich)
Int: Liam Jones (Carl) Jarrod Waite (North Melb) Grant Birchall (Haw)


Four-time premiership Hawk and beloved Tasmanian Grant Birchall leads a team that will represent Tasmania proudly. Coached by Brendan Bolton who built a career in Tasmania, the team contains defenders in career best form such as Docker Alex Pearce and highflyer Jeremy Howe. These dashing defenders will be supported by another highflyer in Liam Jones. Toby Nankervis can run as an additional midfielder, whilst Aaron Hall and Lions hard-nut Mitch Robinson will provide pressure as well as forward 40 entries to a mighty forward line that includes Coleman medal leader Ben Brown, Premiership Tiger star Jack Riewoldt and Brown’s North Melbourne teammate Jarrod Waite who is ageing like fine wine.


NT AFLX State of Origin Team 2019


Steven May & Shaun Burgoyne (Capt) Nathan Buckley (Coach)


Shaun Burgoyne, Jed Anderson, Cyril Rioli, Ben Long, Daniel Rioli, Jake Neade, Steven Motlop, Brandan Parfitt, Nakia Cockatoo, Ryan Nyhuis, Jake Long, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Zac Bailey, Willie Rioli


B: Steven May (GCS) Brandan Parfitt (Geel)
Foll: Jed Anderson (North Melb) Cyril Rioli (Haw) Shaun Burgoyne (Haw)
F: Daniel Rioli (Rich) Steven Motlop (Port Adel)
Int: Nakia Cockatoo (Geel) Anthony McDonald- Tipungwuti (Ess) Jake Long (StK)


Electrifying as always. The Northern Territory team will be coached by Pies coach Nathan Buckley who spent his childhood in Darwin and will be captained by Sun’s hardman Steven May and 35 years old, four-time premiership winner Shaun Burgoyne who is nearing 350 AFL games. This team also includes three premiership players including Hawks magician Cyril Rioli, his tiger cousin Daniel Rioli, and match-winner Steven Motlop. Roos midfielder, Jed Anderson is in career best form, whilst Dons speedster Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Geelong’s Nakia Cockatoo and Saint Jake Long round out the bench.


Now that I have shown you the respected State sides for the AFLX, this initiative is in fact, the key to take our beloved game internationally. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan in February stated he wants to take AFLX to Hong Kong at the end of the year, to play a six-team mini-tournament.


“To take our game and showcase all the best bits of it, and actually not have to build infrastructure like we did in Shanghai, for example, that presents a huge opportunity.”


Although the Shanghai experiment has not fired the city as the head honchos thought it would, more can be done to expand an AFLX competition into neighbouring countries such as New Zealand and Fiji that have produced AFL stars, such as Nic Naitanui, Esava Rategulea, and Shane Savage.


As it would be difficult working out a seven-team AFLX state of origin tournament, I thought adding international flavour would allow the AFL to gain a stronger international audience. Whilst working out my squad I was amazed to find so many current players with international origins. Dane Rampe who I’ve named in the backline for NSW/ACT has links with Estonia through his father. Brisbane Lion Ryan Lester has a father and mother born in South Africa and England respectively, and Tigers defender Oleg Markov was born in the Eastern European country of Belarus. More than 120 current AFL players in 2018 have a parent born overseas.


To make selecting this team easier, a player can only be eligible if they, or both their parents are born overseas. Players such as speedy wingman Jason Johannisen, super-boot Shane Savage, electrifying rebounding defender Zach Touhy and Dons Rising star winner Andrew McGrath were all born in different parts of the globe, yet all grew to love our Australian sport. To show how diverse these selections are, I switched Dom Pyke from coach of WA to coach of the International’s because he was born in Bloomington, Illinois in the USA. Pyke was born in the states because his father, former WAFL star Frank Pyke was teaching at the Illinois State University. Now, Pyke, who most likely identifies himself as a pureblood Aussie, is eligible to be coach of the International team. Another conundrum I faced was the selection of Max Gawn. Named as my star big man in the ‘Big V’, both Gawn’s parents were born on the West Coast South Island in New Zealand. To make his selection in the International’s easier, Gawn has stated he barracks for the Black Caps in the cricket and flew over to New Zealand for Christmas and attended their Boxing Day clash with Bangladesh in 2016.


INTERNATIONAL AFLX State of Origin Team 2019

Zach Touhy (Capt) Dom Pyke (USA/Coach)

Bachar Houli (Lebanon) Max Gawn (New Zealand) Jack Watts (England) David Swallow (Netherlands/England) Nic Naitanui (Fiji) Esava Rategulea (Fiji) Zach Touhy (Ireland) Mason Cox (USA) Pearce Hanley (Ireland/Wales) Lin Jong (Taiwan/Timor-China) Ryan Lester (South Africa/England) Connor McKenna (Ireland) Connor Glass (Ireland) Ciaran Byrne (Ireland) Andrew McGrath (Canada) Paul Puopolo (Italy) Aliir Aliir (South Sudan) Mark Blicavs (Latvia/Jersey) Rowan Marshall (New Zealand) Shane Savage (New Zealand) Oleg Markov (Poland) Jason Johannisen (South Africa) Majak Daw (South Sudan) Brodie Smith (England/Scotland) Aaron Young (England/Scotland)


B: Zach Touhy (Geel/Ire) Bachar Houli (Rich/Leb)
Foll: Max Gawn (Melb/NZL) Mark Blicavs (Geel/Lat/Jer) Jason Johannisen (WB/RSA)
F: Nic Naitanui (WCE/FIJ) Eava Rategulea (Geel/FIJ)
Int: Shane Savage (StK/NZL) Mason Cox (Coll/USA) Connor McKenna (Ess/Ire)


How exciting is this is concept! We can play these games anywhere in the world. Think of the great opportunities for players to travel around the world teaching youngsters the art of AFLX in New York or London. What a great jump off point for their overseas sojours. Imagine if the future AFL Grand Finals are televised around the world like the Super Bowl.


As I stated above, coaches will have little angst seeing their star players playing with and learning from the best. This concept promotes unity and a state brotherhood for the great players of our great game. As AFLX is played on smaller fields, who’s to say we can once again get a 120,000-crowd packed into the MCG. Interstate clubs have shown their desire to compete with the best, the Premier of WA even expressed a yearning to host the AFL Grand Final. AFL Great Kevin Sheedy was on the money when he stated the new Optus Stadium in Perth should’ve opened with a Victoria v Western Australia clash, I hope the AFL doesn’t miss this opportunity as it has the potential to take Australian rules into the stratosphere.


-Bell at a GOAT-


About Sam Harvey

To celebrate the stars, skills, stats and stories of the past that have been long forgotten. ‘Bell at a GOAT’ is inspired by my Papa’s great skill at butchering the English language. We believe he was trying to say bull at a gate!


  1. Carole Fabian says

    This is a brilliant idea! Love your team selections. Now, I’d like to see that . . . .

  2. Congratulations on the effort you’ve gone to, elaborating on the advantages of AFLX.

    However, AFLX is absolute rubbish and does not resemble the true stuff that real footy is based on. Even the players scoff at it!

  3. How about a Vic metro and Vic country team?

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Huge effort to put this together Sam. I share the disdain for AFLX that many others have, but I applaud what you’ve done here.

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