2020 AFL Canada Annual Report
Congratulation to those elected to the AFL Canada Executive Board of Directors for 2021:
President: Lachlan Griffiths (Calgary Kangaroos)
Vice President: Kyle Mundell (Grand River Gargoyles)
Treasurer: David Smith (Sydney Giants)
Players Representative (Women): Lara Hilmi (Etobicoke Kangaroos)
Players Representative (Men): James Duggan (Toronto Dingoes)
Director: Jim Oertel (Burnaby Eagles)
Director: Greg Bridges (Ottawa Swans)
The Board of Directors is looking forward to welcoming Footy back in full swing and continuing to grow the game in Canada in 2021.
In one of the most unique years to date for not just AFL Canada but society in general, it was great to see that Footy was able to bring together people; be it online, socially distanced in person sessions or even through games in some of the provinces where restrictions allowed.
Even with the pandemic and ensuing restrictions laid upon us, the focus of AFL Canada in 2020, as it is in all years, is to further develop the game of Footy in Canada. While it may have looked different and ultimately some events were postponed, the growth and expansion of Footy was still front and center in 2020.
While registration numbers were clearly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was still promising to see that AFL Canada was able to retain over 4000participants who took part in various versions of Footy such as In School Programs, Auskick, Footy training for fitness in BC and Ontario, full contact games within cohorts in Calgary and Edmonton, Flag Footy in Quebec and small sided games and practice in Nova Scotia.
2020 saw Australian Football returning to the Kin Games for the first time since 2018. This year the games took place in Niagara, Ontario. Footy was to be featured as the Marquee Sport on the final day of the games, ultimately deciding the Kin Games Champion. One of the most pleasing aspects of the Kin Games this year was the number of volunteers who were willing to give up their time to travel down to Niagara to assist with the facilitation of the competition as well as volunteers who ran Footy intro sessions for their local University, allowing clubs from all over the country to be involved in the games. In total, around 35 volunteers from various clubs across Ontario had organized for volunteers to attend the Kin Games and six clubs across the country held intro sessions for their local teams. We want to thank all of those volunteers and look forward to getting back into the Kin Games in 2021.
A priority in 2020 was to increase the availability of AFL Football matches to AFL Canada members, this was achieved through a couple of different avenues. Firstly, the number of Australian Football games shown live on TSN was increased from two per week, up to four, five and sometimes six games per weekend with additional replays and delayed games aired. The AFL Canada ad also saw increased recognition with more games providing more opportunity for the ad to be aired.
The second avenue for increasing AFL match availability was achieved through a partnership with the Geelong Football Club. In March of 2020 AFL Canada was pleased to announce a deal had been struck with Geelong, to provide the cheapest Watch AFL memberships available worldwide and also the cheapest ways to watch AFL Football outside of Australia. We look forward to continuing this partnership in 2021 and years to come.
As well as increasing the availability of Australian Football matches in Canada, the Board of Directors sought to increase the availability of Australian Football equipment in Canada. After launching the Online Shop in 2019, it is now fully operational and stocked with Sherrins, Junior Burley Footballs, Whistles and a range of branded apparel with more to come. Sherrin footballs are now available on Amazon in Canada as well as the USA and lastly, AFL Canada was able to broker a deal with school wholesale supplier FlagHouse Inc. This means Flagouse will stock and distribute AFL Canada junior footys to further diversify the availability of equipment in Canada.
With the progression of the pandemic in 2020, games and competitions started to become postponed and further gathering restrictions came into place, AFL Canada took this as an opportunity to use the flexibility of our great game to continue to grow the sport. Through a partnership with the Calgary Kangaroos Junior AFC, the ‘Learn Footy @ Home Series’ was developed with the intention that while schools were closed, kids could still learn how to play footy at home, either individually or with parents/siblings/immediate family.
While on the topic of Junior Footy; school programs, Footy for intramurals and Auskick continued to be a major focus for AFL Canada this year. One of the major barriers that has always existed in terms of running these programs is know how. Keeping this in mind AFL Canada sought to develop a resource to help member clubs, teachers and essentially any individual looking to implement junior programs in any capacity. The Youth Programming Resource after thorough research through many, many junior footy resources, is now available for free by navigating to the juniors section of the AFL Canada website.
Another opportunity for Footy to take center stage even when not much Footy was actually being played, was exhibited through the AFL Canada Webinar Series. Unfortunately, the International Cup scheduled for July 2020 was forced to be postponed. However, both of AFL Canada’s National Teams were lucky enough to have an extremely high caliber of guests run them through a series of topics such as nutrition, skill development and sports psychology, to ensure they have the upper hand for when they are able to take the field next.
On top of the webinars scheduled for the National Players professional development, AFL Canada, was fortunate enough to have guest hosts run a series of webinars focused on Club Development. Topics such as Good Governance, Social Media and Concussion Education were all discussed. AFL Canada would like to extend a huge thank you to all of those guests who gave up their time to assist in developing Footy in Canada.
From a National Team's perspective, it was disappointing to have the International Cup postponed, but also extremely positive to see the two teams attack the postponement as extra time to prepare for when the event is rescheduled. National Camps were able to run in both the East and West following the loosening of restrictions in some provinces and the teams are as hungry as ever!
Northwind Head Coach, Cody Royle was elevated to National Coaching Director throughout the year. He will be responsible for overseeing the Coaching program for both National Teams going forward, as well as the development of coaching in Canada.
AFL Canada would like to extend a thank you to Candace Kwan for her services to the Northern Lights, both as a player and coach, after vacating the head coaching position in August of this year. We wish Candace the very best for her future in and out of Footy.
On the same note, we would like to welcome Tricia Rolfe as the new Head Coach of the Northern Lights. Tricia has hit the ground running in terms of communication with players, and moving her plan forward. We look forward to Tricia continuing the rich tradition of success the Northern Lights have seen in past years.
Lastly, one of the more positive achievements in the year and something that can certainly be replicated in years going forward is the utilization of the Canada Summer Jobs program. In past years, a small number of member clubs/leagues have utilized the funding available from the Government of Canada through the Canada Summer Jobs program.
This year AFL Canada members were able to gain around $65k worth of funding for various projects through the Canada Summer Jobs program. The intended projects for this funding included school programs in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa, Digital Marketing/Online administration interns for AFL Ontario & AFL BC and finally a program officer which allowed Calgary Kookaburras to offer free babysitting for Moms wanting to play and train. While some of these programs have been deferred to the winter or spring due to the current climate, it is impressive to see the fundraising capacity of clubs across the country. It’s also encouraging to see that there is funding available for Australian Football clubs all over Canada to achieve their goals!
In closing, 2020 has certainly not been the year anticipated when forecasting goals and outcomes at this time last year, but given what the AFL Canada community has faced, it’s impossible not to label the above achievements and many more from members as a success. With things returning to a state of normalcy over the winter break, we look forward to welcoming back returning members, new members and having Footy back in 2021.