“It’s certainly an option to bring AFLX to Sydney or Brisbane but we haven’t finalised our plans for next year,” McLachlan said.
“We’ve raised it with the [club] presidents, we’re doing a review with the clubs and others and we’ll make that decision mid-year.
“We think it was successful, it rated well, there was a strong crowd, players loved playing it. The elite level, we’re not sure where we go next – we’re talking to the clubs about that.
“In Queensland and NSW, certainly at the junior levels, the credibility and opportunity for kids to play with less than 18 on rectangular pitches is a huge part of the solution. We’d like to compliment that, potentially, at the elite level.”
A crowd just under 10,000 came to Allianz Stadium as it hosted one of three AFLX tournaments during the 2018 pre-season. But with that venue currently being demolished, there is really only one logical option if the event comes to Sydney.
The finishing touches are currently being put on Bankwest Stadium, the new permanent home of the NRL’s Parramatta Eels and the A-League’s Western Sydney Wanderers. The boutique 30,000-seat arena has the steepest grandstands of any stadium in Australia and is scheduled to host its first match on April 22.
AFL NSW chief executive Sam Graham has already received confirmation from Infrastructure NSW that it is able to accommodate AFLX fixtures and is doing what he can behind the scenes to make it happen. Graham believes the event could also help stimulate the growth of the GWS Giants, who attracted their highest non-derby crowd for a regular-season match against Essendon in round one.
“That’s going to be a world-class stadium, from what I’ve seen,” Graham said of Bankwest. “Like anything, I’m big on bringing those type of events like the draft to Sydney, and Sydney loves a big event. How that plays out, that’s certainly a question for the AFL.”
AFLX itself remains in a “concept phase”, Graham said, with the state federation in the process of conducting a number of trials and collating feedback before deciding how to roll it out to the game’s participation base.
“We really see the potential in it,” he said. “At a local level here, one of our core issues which has been well documented is our lack of facilities. We’re really challenged at the moment to accommodate the demand for our game with the supply of quality ovals.
“The general feedback is players love playing the game, it sort of feels like the traditional format but it’s a little more open and it’s high-scoring, fun to play and good to watch.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.