AFL Canada Annual Report

November 14, 2022

Congratulations to the Board of Directors elected at AFL Canada’s AGM held on November 13th, 2022:

President: Lachlan Griffiths (Calgary Kangaroos)

Vice President: Kyle Mundell (Grand River Gargoyles)

Treasurer: David Smith (Sydney Giants)

Women’s Representative: Haley Jones (Central Blues)

Men’s Representative: Jim Oertel (Burnaby Eagles)

Director: Greg Bridges (Ottawa Swans)

Director: Lara Hilmi (Etobicoke Kangaroos)

Director: Caroline Leduc (AFL Quebec)

AFL Canada is looking forward to a big year of growth in 2023!

2022 AFL Canada Annual Report:

Footy in Canada was back with a bang in 2022! After two years of limited play due to the pandemic, Footy was finally able to resume in a close to normal fashion. AFL Canada membership numbers enjoyed a year of substantial growth and closer resembled pre pandemic numbers. 

AFL Canada’s Board of Directors elected to reduce membership fees to $1 for the third straight year to provide financial flexibility to member clubs who are still in the process of rebounding from the pandemic. This decision saved member clubs over $15,000 in membership fee expenses for 2022.

Junior Membership was the big growth number in 2022 with an increase of over 100 junior members across the country. The Calgary Kangaroos junior program was once again the leader in junior programming but assisting in the growth was the Ottawa Swans junior program in its second year, as well as new junior programs from the Halifax Dockers, Central Blues, Hamilton Wildcats and the Calgary Kookaburras. 

The Northern Lights Youth Mentor Project kicked junior programming off for the year in the winter of 2022 in Ottawa. This pilot project was made possible with a successful funding application from the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association. The program’s intention is to engage teenage girls in sport through Footy, with the intention of keeping them in sport, and at the same time teaching them valuable life lessons. This was done by industry experts running seminars on relevant topics to that age group.

Such a success was the pilot program that the project was replicated in three other cities across the country, by the Calgary Kookaburras, Halifax Dockers and Hamilton Wildcats – this expansion was made possible through the support of EMM Consulting. All in all, over 100 teenage girls took part in the project this year. AFL Canada is on the lookout for the next expansion cities for the project in 2023.

To celebrate Footy returning across the country in the spring, AFL Canada introduced the first ever ‘Footy Day in Canada’. Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton all held free come and try sessions in prominent stadiums in their cities to celebrate footy returning, promote the sport, and hopefully introduce the sport to some new faces. 

As the spring rolled around, provincial leagues kicked off their operations for the year, meaning Canada’s National teams were able to set their program in motion as well. Both the Northwind and Northern Lights ran training camps in preparation for a big summer of Footy. Northern Lights Head Coach Tricia Rolfe and her staff led a highly attended camp in Toronto, and Northwind Head Coach Sean Goedheer and his staff elected to split their camps, running an East Camp in Ottawa, and West Camp in Vancouver. All camps were well attended, and displayed a high skill level in preparation for the summer.

Preparation for 2022 for the National Teams included the introduction of new team logos. Both teams announced updated logos that represented the team’s culture and attitudes. We would like to thank Graphic Designer Anthony Artusa for donating his time to help with this project.

Canada Summer Jobs funding was again a big player in the development of Footy in Canada in 2022. Thirteen member clubs applied for funding through the program and were successful in receiving access to over $300,000 in funding. Jobs applied for included junior program leads, marketing coordinators, website development, operations managers, videographers and more. AFL Canada for the first time in 2022 was able to manage payroll for approved member clubs, breaking down another barrier in utilizing the approved Federal Government funding.

AFL Canada launched its new website at the start of the summer, following the closure of the former sporting pulse website platform, as well as being overdue for an update. The marketing committee undertook a lengthy vendor selection process, design phase as well as training and design feedback to ensure AFL Canada had a quality presence online and had a spot for prospective members to find their closest clubs. As well as this, and as a major benefit to members, AFL Canada’s website can be templated in AFL Canada member club colors to provide clubs a simple and user-friendly option for their own home pages.

Summer arrived and that meant it was time for International Footy to return to Canada, with the Parallel Cup taking place for the first time since 2015, and taking place in Canada for the first time since 2013! The USA men’s team traveled up to Toronto to take on the Northwind, with the day also including a development game between both countries. The result of the games didn’t go Team Canada’s way but both teams made the country proud and it was brilliant to see International Footy return for the first time since 2017 due to the pandemic. Thanks to EMM Consulting, Tribal Sport and Great Aussie Food for their support in getting this event going.

AFL Canada’s Board of Directors were on site to support the Northwind in the Parallel Cup, but also to hold the first ever in person strategic planning session. The outcome of the meeting was to determine the direction of the organization moving forward, particularly coming out of the pandemic. More information about the Strategic Plan will be released as we get closer to the new year.

The headline Womens event for the year followed soon after the major Mens event. The inaugural AFL Canada Cup was held in Vancouver over the September long weekend. Over 120 women representing eight AFL Canada member clubs, and one USAFL club descended upon Vancouver to battle it out for AFL Canada Cup Champions. After a weekend of high quality competition, the Wild Swaints a combination team from AFL Quebec, Ottawa Swans and the Hamilton Wildcats prevailed as victors. We would like to thank EMM Consulting, Maxwell Merchant Solutions and Boob Armour for their support in running this event, as well as AFL British Columbia for being amazing hosts.

Toward the end of the year, the Board of Directors approved a newly created Development Manager position for the Vancouver, BC region which is a huge boost for the development of Footy in BC, and by extension Canada. The purpose of the position is to re-establish and build out the junior program pathway in Vancouver, as well as to engage, assist and empower existing and new clubs within the region. We’d like to welcome Jack Baillie who is scheduled to start in the coming weeks.

In summary, AFL Canada enjoyed a busy year of Footy in 2022, and looks forward to building on and developing further in 2023. Thanks to all members, clubs and leagues who did their part to ensure a successful year of Footy in 2022.

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