The AFL, a game created on our shores and almost exclusively only played in Australia, has defied its roots and become a multicultural game.
You could be forgiven for thinking that sentence is an oxymoron; but the truth is our national game has never had more players with foreign backgrounds plying their trade in the AFL.
Last year alone there were 113 players with at least one parent born overseas playing in the league –with every single continent on Earth, bar Antarctica, represented.
The likes of Pearce Hanley, Zach Tuohy and Ciaran Byrne have kept the proud heritage of Irish footballers moving in 2016, and they’ve been joined by an array of international brothers from varying backgrounds.
Norm Smith Medal winner Jason Johannisen (South Africa), Nic Naitanui (Fiji), Oleg Markov (Belarus), Alipate Carlile (Fiji), Adam Saad (Lebanon), Mason Cox (America), Lin Jong (Taiwan, East Timor) and Ivan Maric (Croatia) are just a few of the stars that illuminate the AFL with their diverse upbringings; even former-Fremantle, now Carlton defender Alex Silvagni, one of the most famous family names in AFL history, has an Indian mother.
And let’s not forget that the latest number one draft pick, Andrew McGrath, was born in Canada and only moved to Melbourne at the age of five.
Australia itself is a multicultural country, and footy is the sporting representation of that.
Migrants to our beautiful country integrate themselves into Australian society by heading down to the local oval and kicking a footy.
The latest influx of international culture into the AFL has no doubt come from the African continent; namely Sudan or South Sudan.
Reuben William (Sudan), Majak Daw (South Sudan), Mabior Chol (Sudan) and Aliir Aliir are all beginning to carve out very respectful AFL careers, with Aliir very unlucky to miss out on playing in a Grand Final due to injury.
Yesterday, Hawthorn continued the league’s proud strides towards ethnic diversity by signing Tony Olango, a man born in a Kenyan refugee camp to South Sudanese parents, to their Next Generation academy.
The 200cm ruck prospect finish top ten in both the running vertical jump and 20m sprint at the 2016 AFL Draft combine, but unfortunately went undrafted.
Olango may now get his chance to play in the AFL at seasons end, thanks to the Next Generation academy system.
The Next Generation academy system is an attempt by the AFL to give more opportunities to young people of multicultural and indigenous backgrounds to play league footy.
The AFL prides itself on promoting diversity within its ranks, and the implementation of initiatives like the Next Gen academies, multicultural ambassadors, and the multicultural round itself – not to mention the large portion of funds they send to amateur AFL leagues around the world – displays the leagues inclination to open its arms to the global community.
The most beautiful thing about our game is for two and half hours every weekend, no matter our political, cultural, sexual or religious differences, all anyone cares about is their team performing well.
For a game created in Victoria to keep cricketers fit during the offseason; footy now transcends cultural differences.
And it’s a bloody beautiful thing.
Digital Editor, The Greenfield Post
Ryan is the Digital Editor of The Greenfield Post and the person you should annoy if you want to write for us.