This weekend, the Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final will be played between the NSW Swifts and Giants Netball. The Second AFL Elimination Final will be played between the Sydney Swans and the GWS Giants.
All of New South Wales is in lockdown. Most of us in NSW will be glued to our television all Saturday afternoon anyway. It would be great if we could have had five hours of sport, back-to-back-to-back.
NSW may have once been a one team place, for netball and AFL, but no longer. Since the Giants joined the AFL (2012) and the Super Netball (2016), they have been a rival for the Swans and Swifts respectively.
The Giants are unique in that they are a joint club, with a shared name, family, facility and infrastructure between the two teams.
I was one of the fans that made the trek earlier in the year from Ken Rosewall Arena after a Giants netball game to Giants Stadium, a few hundred metres away from a Giants AFL match.
The NSW Swifts have had a partnership with the Sydney Swans since the club was transformed in 2008 from the Sydney Swifts.
At that time, the NSW Swifts adopted the red colour that has been their trademark since and is linked to the Swans, the red and white.
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So many of those fans, like me, will be torn on Saturday as to which game they watch. And I feel for them, and it’s a missed opportunity.
This is not to say that either Netball Australia or the AFL is at fault. Both have long scheduled these particular matches in these particular windows of the weekend. It wasn’t until the parts all fell into place last weekend that this was on anybody’s radar.
Both codes have had their finals series play out as close to ‘normal’ (pre-COVID) scheduling as possible, and this wasn’t a late change by either code. It was not decided at the last minute to challenge the other code, or slight them.
But what would it have taken, for each code to look at the schedule, and realise the potential for a wonderful opportunity?
Had they scheduled each game slightly further apart, it would have set the stage for a revolutionary partnership.
Given the links shared between the codes, each of the clubs had the chance to market to a slightly different group of fans, and bring others in. It was a chance for advertisers and partners to be able to grow their reach.
It was a chance for club social media managers to branch out, and engage with the humour and creativity that they have shown all year. It was a chance for coaches, club administrators and players to cross-promote.
For some players, it would have been a chance to watch their partners play in the biggest game of the season so far, and for all the players to cheer one another on.
It would have been a chance for clubs to engage with more fans than normal and on the biggest stage of the year.
And sitting in lockdown all Saturday, so many Sydneysiders would have lapped it up. The NSW Government is running a promotion for people to get vaccinated in their sporting teams’ colours on Saturday.
The fact that the NSW Government has identified, and capitalised on, the promotional opportunity should be a sign to all that such a promotion could have been run, and to the great success of both codes. It could have been run without being a detraction or a distraction from either code.
The opportunity to cross-promote, to build true rivalries and alliances, presented itself on a silver platter for this weekend. It’s just a shame that the opportunity has passed everyone by.
I’m sorry because I would have loved to bring my AFL friends into the world of netball. I’m sorry because I would have loved to bring my netball friends into the world of AFL.
And this weekend would have made it easy. We could have all hooked up a Zoom, doubled up on matches, and worn the red or orange all afternoon, and had a great time sharing the wonderful things we have about our teams.
Instead, I’ll be forced to work out what I’m going to watch, and will spend the rest of my attention sticking to the other match, trying to keep up with my team. And all I’ll be thinking is about what could have been.
And I’m sorry we’ve missed that opportunity. I really am, as a fan of both codes, and with a team in each match. It’s a shame, but hopefully, it’s the last time, and any time this presents itself in the future, someone sees the opportunity and capitalise.
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