Sydney Swans players celebrate after defeating Brisbane in round one of the 2021 season. (image: sydneyswans.com.au)

Addressing media in New South Wales, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan shared his contentment with the game's growth in the state.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has expressed his confidence that the game will continue to grow and thrive throughout New South Wales.

McLachlan spoke to media in Sydney on Thursday, beginning by expressing his sympathies for those affected by the flooding across the state.

“On behalf of the whole AFL community, our thoughts are with everyone in NSW affected by floods,” he said.

“I want to thank and congratulate the emergency support volunteers, those who have been helping those who have been impacted.

“We see Australia at its best in moments… of adversity when communities come together and people come from all over the place to help.”

While many local clubs have been affected by the floods, McLachlan said the AFL will do its best to help clubs recover from the impact of the floods, and hopes the 2021 season can provide a source of hope for affected communities.

“When the floodwaters recede we will do our bit to assist those clubs [and] their boards, to provide the gear they need to rebuild as quickly as possible, and I know they will be back this season,” he said.

“I hope in that lens that the start of the AFL Mens’ season is a source of some optimism and a bright light for those people, and more broadly all [Sydney and NSW residents].”

Round one of the 2021 AFL Premiership Season suggested the AFL’s popularity in NSW is on an upward trend. The season opener between Richmond and Carlton recorded a 17 per cent increase in viewership compared to the average between 2015 and 2019. 

The weekend’s matches attracted over 4.5 million TV viewers nationally and 250,000 fans at the games, and promises to keep thriving, particularly in NSW, where it’s been announced that full-capacity crowds are able to return from round three. 

“We thank the NSW government for working with us for a long period of time,” McLachlan said on Thursday. 

“They were fabulous in allowing us to hub up here last year.

“We push to 100 per cent capacity venues on Monday, and football is alive and Well in Sydney and New South Wales.”

McLachlan also pointed to the membership figures of each of the Sydney-based clubs as indicators of the game’s increasing popularity in NSW, and praised the participation in the game across all levels.

“The Swans have over 40,000 members, the Giants have around 25,000,” he said. 

“We’re incredibly proud of our participation rates, the amount of boys, girls, men and women playing our game,” he said.

“The growth has been spectacular, we’re very proud of that, we’re proud of our game generally.”

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