To everyone involved in community football… Thank you!

To every person around Australia who is part of community football in some way, shape or form…

Players, coaches, umpires, volunteers, families, supporters, sponsors, media and administrators – we want to send a heartfelt thank you from everyone at the AFL for your contribution to the game in 2023. 

As we look ahead to the 2023 Toyota AFL Grand Final with excitement and anticipation, Australian football remains the biggest game in the country from grassroots through to the elite level, because of the incredible passion and commitment of great people who are the lifeblood of community footy.

Whether you coach, run the water or organise the canteen or BBQ, maintain the clubrooms, coordinate the NAB AFL Auskick centre, sit on the committee or perform any task that helps your local club and community, we want to say well done and thank you.

To put some perspective on the scale of our game, in 2023 there were around 230 leagues, 2,600 clubs and 17,500 teams involved in Australian rules football right across the country, from Preston to Perth, Darwin to Davenport, Mackay to Morphett Vale. 

This year there have been more than 6,300 finals played in junior and senior community club football competitions across the country and since the start of August, more than 1,260 Grand Finals have been contested.

Hundreds of thousands of people have packed grounds for community finals highlighting the passion people have for local football in towns and regions. The game means a lot to so many!

As the season concludes and premierships have been won, it’s worth recapping how many people have been associated with community football in 2023 because the game is about so much more than on-field success:

  • – More than 200,000 volunteer roles have been taken on in the name of driving community football forward
  • – A record 384,000 people registered to play junior and senior community club football, beating the previous high set in 2019
  • – A record 125,000 kids signed up for NAB AFL Auskick eclipsing the previous high also set in 2019
    • + Girls participation in Auskick continues to grow with girls making up one in four Auskick participants 
  • – Between club football and Auskick, that’re more than half a million people pulling on the boots to play our great game
  • – More than 27,000 coaches registered via Coach AFL
  • – Nearly 18,000 umpires registered, a 12 per cent increase on 2022
  • – More than one million students have been engaged in our schools programs and a further 200,000 are expected to take part before the end of the year

Recently, the 13 category winners of the 2023 Toyota AFL National Volunteer Awards were announced, with recipients to come together in Melbourne for the Toyota AFL Grand Final. The contributions and stories of the people who were recognised, including overall Toyota AFL Community Volunteer of the Year winner Carissa Embling from the Port Macquarie Magpies and the Community Club of the Year, Rochester Football Netball Club, epitomise what community football is all about.

There are areas of the game doing it tough and some communities continue to recover from disasters, like floods and bushfires. The AFL is mindful of directing support to where it’s needed most. To ensure the grassroots game survives and thrives, the AFL has committed to a major increase in support for community football through an enshrined minimum level of annual funding – 10 per cent of the game’s revenue from 2023 onwards. This took investment in game development from $50 million in 2022 up to $67 million this year, with further increases projected in years to come. 

It is imperative that to continue to grow, our game provides welcoming, safe and inclusive facilities. Our stated aim is to build or develop an oval per week for the next five years to cater for the game’s growth. To help meet this ambition, $9.2 million has been committed over next three years into new and enhanced facilities. 

We have also seen our game’s commercial partners throw their support behind community footy funding programs in a big way. Toyota’s Good For Footy initiative includes a nationwide raffle that has raised more than $11 million for grassroots clubs since its inception in 2008, and this year alone achieved a record breaking $1.18 million raised by and for community clubs.

In a further major boost for community football, we recently announced that AFL has teamed up with Telstra to provide $8 million over the next four years for clubs across the country, who can apply for up to $20,000 as part of the Telstra Footy Country Grants.


Community football provides places, memories and moments that teammates, friends, families and supporters cherish forever. It’s the great people involved in the game who ensure these wonderful experiences can be shared. 

Thank you for the role that you have played in our great game in 2023 and we hope to see you back involved in 2024. 


Gillon McLachlan AFL CEO

Andrew Dillon AFL CEO Elect