Dubbo kicks record score in 2021

Like many Australian towns, sport is Dubbo’s heartbeat. There are a plethora of options to get active for people of all ages, interests and abilities.

For a long time, AFL has barely rated a mention in the region, with cricket, rugby league and soccer the preferred options for locals. But that is rapidly changing.

This year, Dubbo has fielded teams in all divisions of the AFL Central West for the first time in the competition’s 40-year history. That’s mixed teams in U12 and U14, U17 boys, youth girls, senior men, senior women and reserve men. There is also a strong NAB AFL Auskick scene and a glut of school programs on offer.

In all, around 800 people have played footy as part of club, Auskick or school activities in 2021.

It is remarkable to think that Dubbo Junior AFL only joined AFL Central West in 2019. In three seasons, it has become one of the most committed and engaged clubs.


Dubbo Junior AFL

President of Dubbo Junior AFL, Merinda Roll, has been at the club since its inception. She remembers the time before it joined AFL Central West, when four local teams of 10 would play intraclub matches, three a week each over 12 rounds – that’s 36 matches of footy in a season.

“We had four teams playing the local league,” said Roll. “But then all of our kids grew and got a bit bored.”

The way to scratch that itch was to get out of the Dubbo bubble and compete against sides vast distances away. Roll says the travel of up to 250 kilometres each way to play is not a barrier, but she has to be upfront about the club’s expectations for all players.

“We haven’t forfeited a single match in three years,” she says proudly. It points to a culture where players and their families respect one another enough to make the effort to play week in, week out.

Roll is determined to keep the club sustainable well into the future: “I’ve always wanted to be an honest club. People are remembered for the things they’ve done wrong and I never want our club to be like that.”

This determination is taking Dubbo Junior AFL to neighbouring towns to spruik the game and run training for players who might not get the opportunity to play. Next season, Roll hopes to take the club to new towns to give them a taste of the Sherrin.

One place she’s particularly keen to visit is Mudgee, which no longer has an AFL club. Roll hopes that her club can reignite the passion for footy in Mudgee.

“We’re really proud and have achieved a lot more than we thought we would in such a short time,” said Roll. And having seen the impact football can have on families and community, she wants to spread it far and wide to benefit everyone.


Into the seniors

A separate club, but intertwined with everything the juniors do (including holding joint training sessions), is Dubbo’s senior club, the Demons.

The Demons fields a men’s, women’s and men’s reserves team, with the women’s side their best chance at a flag in 2021.

This is the first year since 2015 the club is fielding a men’s reserves team and it is buoyed by the junior pathway. Plenty of U17s players will go to the Demons to play seniors in coming years and it will only strengthen the town’s football culture.

Merinda Roll has little doubt the success will come on the field. “This was the tough year, next year will be an absolute eye-opener,” she said. “Our strengths for next year are across all four teams and I’m really excited for next season.”

There’s plenty to be excited about in Dubbo and with people like Merinda Roll as President of the junior club, footy will flourish.

AFL NSW/ACT is heading on a road trip…digitally! Look out for us in a town near you.