For those of us who love Australian Rules Football, we know and believe that our game is the greatest on the planet.
Yet other codes seem to take great delight in pointing out that Aussie Rules is a game only played in a remote corner of the world, and that this will always be the case.
It would no doubt surprise them to learn that Aussie Rules has recorded impressive international growth at the grassroots level. There are now many vibrant clubs and leagues all over the world, including North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
But one of the major barriers to our game reaching its full international potential is the size of our playing field. The other football codes – Soccer, Union, League and Gridiron – all enjoy a huge advantage in that they can play their games in any major stadium in the world.
If our great game is to become a truly global game we must be bold and embrace innovation. We must aim high and start sowing the seeds for a 9-a-side version of Aussie Rules to become an Olympic sport.
Australian Football International (AFI) has extensive experience in developing the 9-a-side version of the game, which we have called Footy 9s.
Of course, there are those that will laugh and scoff at the idea. But is it so far-fetched? The IOC has recently added 5 new sports to the Olympic program, including skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing.
Footy 9s can do this as well, as long as we take a long-term view. We will not become an Olympic sport soon, but if we start sowing the seeds now we can reap great rewards in 20 years time.
Just look at Rugby 7s. World Rugby has done a great job in getting a modified version of rugby into the Olympics. A whole generation of young people all over the world saw Rugby 7s being played in Rio. The possibility of playing in the Olympics will be a great carrot for them to take up a new sport.
We often claim that Aussie Rules is the greatest spectator sport on the planet. If we make it easier for people all over the world to play our great game, that claim can finally become a reality.