Next weekend is the perfect opportunity for state league footy to take the big stage. (Photos: WAFL/Twitter; TSL/Facebook; AFL Queensland/Facebook)

Opinion: State league footy finals have the perfect opportunity to take centre stage on the AFL's bye weekend.

The 2021 AFL preliminary finals were won by a combined margin of 154 points, the most in V/AFL history. Week one of the WAFL finals, meanwhile, was won by a combined margin of just five.

Western Australia was host to a breath-taking qualifying and elimination final across the past weekend. Claremont failed to win after the siren, co-captain Jared Hardisty kicking his second behind of the match to absolute heartbreak.

West Perth and Swan Districts similarly put up a thriller in Joondalup. The lead swung five times in the last quarter before the Falcons finally broke through and achieved revenge for 2017.

Former Hawthorn and West Coast Eagles player and now boundary rider Xavier Ellis summed it up well.

Meanwhile in South Australia, Woodville-West Torrens took down Norwood by seven points, while in Queensland, Maroochydore mounted a stunning last quarter comeback away from home to advance to the grand final.

Launceston went back to back in Tasmania, firmly stamping its authority over rivals North Launceston and thwarting a decade-long dynasty.

All these narratives and thrilling match-ups were lost on the majority of Australian football fans.

None of these games received a single bit of attention on the AFL’s social media channels. A potential audience of 761 thousand Twitter users, 935 thousand Instagram users, and 1.2 million Facebook users didn’t hear a peep about the state league finals.

Some of these games even featured former, or future, AFL players.

Potential pick one Jason Horne-Francis gathered 15 disposals and laid eight tackles for South Adelaide, live on Channel 7. Former Sydney Swan and West Coast Eagle Lewis Jetta launched an absolute barrel to give Swan Districts the lead back in the final term.

More Aussie Rules News

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The A-Z of Finals Week 3: Who’s into the Big Dance? Who didn’t turn up to play?

I was there when… the GWS Giants made their first grand final

With no AFL matches scheduled next weekend, both the league and broadcasters have the chance to right these wrongs and get all eyes on the highest level of Aussie rules that will be played next weekend.

For Victorian and New South Wales residents still in lockdown, unable to play in local footy finals of their own, there’s a huge audience dying for some weekend entertainment.

So, what can be done in the week ahead?

Priming for the state league finals

Broadcasters and media outlets need to be the first to drive change, primarily by getting the word out.

Channel 7 holds the broadcasting rights to every game in the finals series for both the WAFL and SANFL. This means that not only are all games available free-to-air, but also for streaming on 7plus.

This gives footy fans access to the games across any and all devices. Its a huge audience that absolutely can, and should, be taken advantage of.

Advertising across all network channels needs to be ramped up, nationally. No doubt Brownlow Medal Count ads will be repeated ad nauseum, and if that effort can be matched with the state league finals, it would go a long way.

Social media channels also play into this. Younger demographics in particular are much more likely to come across a social media post than a television ad. 7Sport didn’t put out a single post relating to the WAFL or SANFL, but have posted five on the NFL in the past 24 hours.

Even simple retweets and reshares of the official SANFL or WAFL posts from 7 or the AFL to help them reach a wider audience could be done effortlessly and easily.

A simple retweet of a post like this could amplify the state league finals audience.

Media outlets then must get people invested into the stories behind the finals.

Articles, interviews, news packages, audio, and podcasts needs to be produced with the same level of respect and excitement as it would be for the AFL finals. Resources and journalists that would normally be used for the AFL finals have a lot more time and availabilities to put towards the state leagues with the week off.

Old rivalries, former stars, young guns, and history beyond compare can all be dug into and presented as the thrilling stories they are.

None of the current games scheduled come anywhere near close to clashing with the only AFL event of the weekend: the Brownlow on Sunday night.

With clear air to give fans that footy fix that they’ve been lamenting missing in the upcoming weekend, the excitement that the state league finals are set to offer can’t be wasted.

Glenelg vs Woodville-West Torrens. West Adelaide vs South Adelaide. Broadbeach vs Maroochydore. Subiaco vs South Fremantle. Claremont vs West Perth.

Five thrilling match ups with all the prime time you could ask for.

The next time someone says they’ll miss having footy on over the weekend, don’t let them forget that’s there still 10 state level teams across Australia on the hunt for premiership glory.

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