AFL Canada 2021 Annual Report

December 6, 2021

Congratulations to the Board of Directors elected at AFL Canada’s AGM held on December 5th, 2021:

President: Lachlan Griffiths (Calgary Kangaroos)

Vice President: Kyle Mundell (Grand River Gargoyles)

Treasurer: David Smith (Sydney Giants)

Women’s Representative: Lara Hilmi (Etobicoke Kangaroos)

Men’s Representative: Jim Oertel (Burnaby Eagles)

Director: Greg Bridges (Ottawa Swans)

Director: Haley Jones (Central Blues)

Director: James Duggan (Toronto Dingoes)

AFL Canada is looking forward to a big year of growth in 2022!

2021 Annual Report:

AFL Canada and its members displayed resilience and flexibility in 2021, bouncing back from a global pandemic in a big way! Where 2020 only saw certain pockets of the country able to operate due to the global pandemic, 2021 saw the return of all major leagues and various tournaments, as well as some old rivalries reignited. Many modifications and precautions were necessary, but AFL Canada’s Board of Directors would like to commend all members for ensuring Footy was played in 2021.

From a numbers perspective, membership numbers grew as expected from 2020, returning to closer to pre-pandemic numbers, with almost 700 members, but more excitingly the growth in various teams, leagues and initiatives assisted the overall growth of the sport in Canada. 

Junior Footy remained a primary focus for the organization. Calgary’s already well-established schools program led the way, visiting over 5,000 kids this year – a herculean effort given the conditions. We also saw the return of junior footy in Vancouver with AFLBC taking over the reins from the North Delta program. As well as that we saw new Auskick centers in Ottawa, to complement the five running in Calgary this year.

The year kicked off positively in terms of exposure with AFLW matches being aired in Canada for the first time on TSN. Following that another 60+ mens games were shown throughout the season including all finals and the Grand Final. AFL Canada looks forward to further increasing exposure of the game in partnership with TSN in 2022.

Another initiative implemented to kick off the year was the AFL Canada Coaches Program. The program is designed to ensure every AFL Canada Member Club has the opportunity to educate their coaches in the best manner, providing safe and quality sport to their members. Multiple clubs took advantage of the program and all registered and qualified Coaches received an official AFLC Coaches Board courtesy of AFL Canada.

With Spring beginning to roll around, clubs and leagues started planning for their seasons. Covid restrictions still loomed in many areas of the country, providing some uncertainty as to what sort of operations could be expected. With this in mind, AFL Canada’s Board of Directors looked to provide some financial relief to clubs, electing to reduce membership fees to $1 per member (normally $25) for the second year running. Ensuring that clubs and leagues could focus on doing what they do best – playing Footy! This decision ultimately ended up in savings of $12,615 being passed directly to members.

The Canada Summer Jobs program was again a big player in building capacity for AFL Canada Clubs this year. Multiple AFL Canada member organizations submitted applications for various job roles including childminding while parents train (Calgary Kookaburras), junior programming (Calgary Kangaroos and Halifax Dockers) and social media/marketing coordinators (AFL Ontario). In the end over 45 positions were approved with a total of $218,369 worth of funding disbursed to clubs across Canada. More roles and funding were approved than were executed on, however we will continue to assist clubs to obtain and fulfilling these roles in 2022, with applications opening in the coming weeks. 

Derek Govier was appointed as Head Umpire for AFL Canada in May. Following a lengthy application and interview process, the Board of Directors appointed Derek to build on the training, recruiting and management of Umpires in Canada. Derek’s appointment follows former Head Umpire Peter ‘Doc’ Dinnick stepping down from the role, after being relocated back to Australia. AFL Canada would like to again thank Doc for his efforts in developing the Umpires Fraternity within Canada.

The early Spring of 2021 saw another longtime AFL Canada staff member stepping down, Northwind Head Coach, Cody Royle. Royle had been part of the Northwind Coaching group for the best part of a decade, taking the reins as head coach in 2015. AFL Canada would like to express our gratitude to Coach Royle for the years of hard work he put in developing and professionalizing the men’s program.

Following the Head Coaches position becoming vacant, AFL Canada implemented an in-depth search for Royle’s replacement. After a lengthy interview process with multiple applicants, the interview committee unanimously recommended Sean Goedheer take on the Head Coach role, which the board immediately ratified. Goedheer had held an Assistant Coaching position under Royle for the previous two years and had been integral in setting up the High-Performance team, giving Northwind players access to sports health-related professionals.

A major step in the development of Australian Football as a recognized sport in Canada happened in August with AFL Canada becoming recognized as a Registered Canadian Amateur Athletics Association (RCAAA). This opens AFL Canada, and more importantly, its member clubs to a whole new level of potential funding as a Qualified Donee and also allows AFL Canada to receive donations directly. This recognition reflects AFL Canada’s dedication to building quality amateur sport in Canada.

August saw all provincial leagues up and running, some in different ways than normal, but Footy was up and running in Canada! As well as that the easing of gathering/travel restrictions allowed AFL Canada’s two National Teams, to gather and facilitate camps for the first time in 2021. Camps in Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto were well attended and guided successfully for the first time by new Head Coaches Tricia Rolfe (Northern Lights) and Sean Goedheer (Northwind). 

Once again AFL Canada’s Grant Program was open to member clubs for 2021. The intention of the program is to provide assistance to clubs undertaking projects that foster the development of Australian Football in their local areas. As part of the 2021 program, funds and equipment were approved for the Burnaby Eagles, Ottawa Swans, AFL Ontario and the Sydney Giants. AFL Canada is anticipating a surge in applications looking toward 2022 as we continue to rebuild from the global pandemic. Our allocated budget for grants in 2021 was not fulfilled, and the AFL Canada Board has had many internal discussions to identify how we can better run our grant program to ensure we are providing our full budget of grant funding to clubs and leagues each year. We anticipate a more specific grant program will be released in early 2022 to help guide clubs with their applications. 

AFL Canada’s online shop went from strength to strength this year with the introduction of new items such as Official Coaches boards and by disbursing over 130 footys to 8 provinces in Canada. AFL Canada balls and merchandise are also still available through Amazon and vendors such as Flaghouse.

Partnerships are integral to the operation of any not-for-profit organization and AFL Canada was lucky enough to welcome some new partners across the year as well as extend some existing partnerships. 

Great Aussie Food came on as Official Equipment Sponsor in May. The agreement meant that Great Aussie Food became an official partner of AFL Canada, printing their logo on all Sherrins used and sold in Canada. This also means that AFL Canada is able to continue to provide the world’s cheapest Sherrin Footballs to its members. Savings of approximately $6,500 were passed directly to AFL Canada members in 2021. 

2021 saw the second year of the AFL Canada & Geelong Cats partnership that gave AFL Canada members access to the cheapest AFL Watch memberships available anywhere outside of Australia. AFL Canada was delighted to be able to extend that partnership for 2022 providing even greater access to professional football for its members. Savings of over $3,880 were passed directly to AFL Canada members through this program in 2021. 

Lululemon was engaged as a supporter of our national team, providing heavily discounted apparel to National Team players and staff. This benefit provided our athletes and staff with up to 50% off select training gear. This partnership yielded $31,691 in savings on training apparel for Northern Lights and Northwind players and staff throughout 2021.

Toward the end of 2021, AFL Canada struck a deal with Sport for Life to house its junior resources on their PLAYbuilder app. PLAYbuilder is an app available internationally to teachers and coaches and allows AFL Canada to share Australian Football resources even further.

AFL Canada would like to thank the partners mentioned above for their help in growing footy in Canada, as well as existing partners; Impact Mouthguards, True Blue Swim School (formerly Paul Sadlers Swimland), OFX and Burley-Sekem for their continued support.

AFL Canada would also like to acknowledge the ongoing funding support we received from AFL house, and their commitment to maintaining 2022’s funding level at the same level as 2021.

In closing AFL Canada’s Board of Directors would again like to commend all members for their efforts in ensuring a successful 2021 and looks forward to an even bigger and better 2022.

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