#snswfootyfactory firing on all cylinders
If you draw a line east from Broken Hill to Cobar, south through Wagga to Albury and then west to Mildura, you have outlined the southern NSW footy factory.
It’s a big factory, and they get a lot of work done.
As it stands, there are around 20 AFL and AFLW players who grew up in the region. With a population of fewer than 400,000, that’s a big conversion rate – around one in 20,000 get drafted.
If you applied the same conversion rate to greater Sydney, there would be 265 AFL players from Sydney, around six full AFL lists worth.
A big finals series for the Riv
The AFL Riverina community will be keenly watching the opening contests of the AFL finals this weekend, with five local players involved.
The GIANTS and Swans clash in Launceston will feature Harry Cunningham (Turvey Park), Jacob Hopper (Leeton-Whitton), Harry Himmelberg (MCUE) and Harry Perryman (Collinguillie-Glenfield Park).
The fact that none of the players have come from the same club tells you a lot about the depth in the region.
Wagga export, Isaac Smith, will play his 11th final over the weekend, although his first in Geelong colours, after he made the move from Hawthorn this season.
Hailing from further south, Tom Hawkins (Finley), Charlie Spargo (Albury) will likely play, with Jeremy Finlayson (Culcairn) hoping to force his way back into the GIANTS’ side.
Hawkins will play his 300th for the Cats in this weekend’s qualifying final against Port Adelaide. He’s chasing down Shane Crawford as the other Finley local to play 300 AFL matches – Crawford played 305 for the Hawks.
Superstars from the south
Southern NSW has produced its fair share of stars over the journey.
Wayne Carey, Paul Kelly, John Longmire, the Daniher brothers, Billy Brownless, Leo Barry, Cameron Mooney and Bill Mohr are just a few of the names out of the factory.
It is also an area ripe for players to run around in when their professional careers are over, with many returning to where they grew up seeking a chance at a local flag.
The future looking bright
Players such as Alyce Parker (Thurgoona) and Ally Morphett (Wagga) are proof that the men’s success is rubbing off on local women and girls, who have long been unsung stars of the region. As AFLW continues to blossom, so too will the number of southern NSW women pulling on the boots for elite clubs.
In the 2021 mid-season draft, three southern NSW products were picked at elite teams, with Cooper Sharman starring in the Saints’ forward line, despite having no preseason and having only a few games to make an impact.
In terms of draft talent, the AFL recently invited three potential draftees from southern NSW to the NAB AFL Draft Combine, scheduled for October 2021. There’s a good chance one, or all of Harry Grintell, Ryan Eyers or Patrick Voss will get a crack at the big time.
The southern NSW footy factory is consistently churning out quality goods. Whether its icons of the past or stars of the future, it’s a great place to live in or visit if you love our game.
AFL NSW/ACT’s Digital Road Trip continues its cruise through NSW. Next stop, Albury.