Historically Australian football has not been as popular in New South Wales and Queensland as the other states, with the possible exception of areas such as the Riverina and Broken Hill. Anecdotally, this appears to be changing with the establishment of professional AFL teams in Sydney and increasing amateur participation in other parts of the state.
I wanted to see whether it would be possible to verify this change by mapping the locations of clubs in NSW over time.
I have previously written about The Barassi Line, looking at the different geographic distributions of rugby league and Australian football. This discussion uses the same data.
The limitations of this analysis are:
-The data is limited to the list of clubs within NSW that were gathered for my previous post on The Barassi Line, so it is not necessarily an exhaustive list.
-The data only shows currently existing clubs, so clubs that may have existed in the past and closed will not be represented.
-I had to manually research the date of establishment for clubs. Dates came from a combination of sources: club websites, facebook groups, wikipedia entries etc. There is no authoritative way of knowing how accurate these are.
-Some clubs had Junior and/or Women’s teams listed as separate clubs, where this was the case I have used the earliest date and only included the team once.
-I could not find establishment dates for 12 of the 213 clubs, therefore they have just been excluded from the analysis.
So with these limitations in mind lets have a look at the maps.
Average location of Australian football clubs in NSW 1900-Present
The above is calculated by making a simple average of the latitudes and longitudes of clubs that existed up until that year.
So this seems to reinforce the narrative outlined previously. From 1900 to 1950, the average location of a club was most heavily influenced by the clubs in Broken Hill and the Riverina, over this time moving southwest, reinforcing the Riverina skew. From the mid century onwards there is a clear northward shift in the average location, due to the influence of an increasing number of clubs in Sydney and northern NSW.
Establishment of Australian football clubs in NSW 1876-Present
The animation above shows this same story in a different way. Ignore the details other than the year in the playback slider area, I couldn’t find any way to remove those details. Once again, the most dramatic period seems to be 1950 onwards. Dragging back and fourth over this area really gives you an impression of the change.
As outlined previously, there are limitations to this analysis. But in terms of observing broad patterns I think there is still a lot to be taken from this. The maps support the story of Australian football’s popularity in NSW changing from being limited to areas near South Australia and Victoria, to one with increasing presence and importance in the rest of the state and Sydney in particular.
Title Image uses Stamen Watercolor as a background under CC BY 3.0