Australia’s International Game

A Sudanese player, outmarking a Irishman, slotting the goal with the poise of a 200 game veteran and then being knocked out within the first quarter of an AFL game? I’d like to see that.

For as long as the AFL’s marketing team has realized that Australia is the only place you can find the AFL, they have been relentless in their advertising of ‘Australia’s Game’.

Indeed, Majak Daw‘s debut for North Melbourne on the weekend was a significant step for the AFL in more than one way.

As the first ever Sudanese born player, Majak joins the list of 142 VFL/AFL senior players to be born outside of Australia. The Sudanese community is Australia’s fastest growing ethnic demographic, that saw a 28% increase between 1996 and 2005. A vital market you’d think. The Boss would be licking his lips, knowing that everywhere in town, young Sudanese kids are looking up at Majak.

If the AFL is serious about expanding their supporter base and viewership, they are marching in the right direction (albeit, baby steps). The AFL Community’s Multicultural program boasts that “25% of the AFL’s lists are from diverse backgrounds (including 11% Indigenous)”. It might sound impressive, but in reality 26% of Australian’s are born overseas anyway. With this week’s match between St Kilda and Sydney being played in Wellington, New Zealand, I thought I would take a look at the international standing of ‘Australia’s Game’.

World Map

Read the data here.

Where will the game be in 20, 50, 100 years time? Will the world ever know what they are missing out on? Unfortunately the police have seized my time machine, and Emmett Brown’s not returning my calls so I can’t tell you. One thing I do know is that achieving widespread multiculturalism in the AFL, and further branching the game globally is an extremely high mountain to climb. And at the moment, the AFL has a long way to the top.




Follow Jake “Cobba” Stevens on Twitter and on his blog!

About Jake "Cobba" Stevens

Cobba Stevens works in sports social media and content. A keen middle-distance runner in both the ammos and the pros, he's also one of the youngest 'old bloods' supporters in Melbourne.


  1. Michael Viljoen says

    I’m surprised that that figure seems so small. Going by that, it seems that overseas born players make up less than 1% of the total number of players who’ve played, which is very surprising.

    I came to Australia as a kid (from South Africa). While growing up, playing footy was totally natural. I couldn’t imagine otherwise. We had a lot of immigrants in our area. Soccer was strong but footy was more popular. 

    We barrack for Carlton because the first game my Dad ever saw (third day of being in Australia) involved first season player, Syd Jackson, and a wog named Alex Jesaulenko. How could we not barrack for them after seeing those two going around?

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